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Painted Ladies (Spenser Mysteries, No. 39) Hardcover – October 5, 2010

Book 38 of 42 in the Spenser Series

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 291 pages
  • Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Son's; 1st edition (October 5, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399156852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399156854
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (149 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #823,175 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of the lackluster 38th Spenser novel from late MWA Grand Master Parker, the iconic Boston PI agrees to protect art historian Ashton Prince during the exchange for cash of a rare painting held for ransom, 17th-century Dutch artist Franz Hermenszoon's Lady with a Finch. When a bomb kills Prince during the botched exchange, Spenser naturally plans to even the score. And naturally, Spenser's probing--into the painting's complex history, Prince's twisted life, the museum that owned the painting--leads to violent reactions. Spenser's habitual wisecracking often comes across as merely smart-alecky, but as always he backs the attitude with performance. While this crime thriller is short on the kind of grit and character that earned Parker (1932–2010) an Edgar Award and numerous Shamus nominations, fans should still relish this probably final opportunity to enjoy the inimitable Spenser, who made his debut in 1973's The Godwulf Manuscript.
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Spenser’s end is his beginning. In this posthumously published novel (Parker died in January), the Boston PI tries to retrieve a priceless work of art and deals with the rarefied and nasty world of academics, as he did in his very first caper, The Godwulf Manuscript (1973). Thirty-seven novels later, Spenser can still nail a person’s foibles on first meeting, still whip up a gourmet meal in a few minutes, still dispatch the thugs who haunt his office and his home, and do it all while maintaining a fierce love of Susan Silverman and English poetry (which he quotes frequently and always to good effect). The plot this time spins off from Spenser’s shame over the murder of a client, a college art professor who asked him to provide backup during a delicate ransom exchange for a rare seventeenth-century Dutch painting. Spenser, ever true to his modern-day chivalric code, cannot let himself off the hook for the professor’s death. His investigation unveils the professor’s avocation as a sexual predator of coeds, and it digs deeply into both the world of art theft (reaching back to Nazi thefts of great European works). Halfway through this thoroughly entertaining mystery, Parker writes a perfect valedictory for the much-loved Spenser: “Sometimes I slew the dragon and galloped away with the maiden. Sometimes I didn’t. . . . But so far the dragon hadn’t slain me.” Long live Spenser. --Connie Fletcher

Customer Reviews

A bit too simplistic dialogue for an accomplished author.
Fred Forbes
As with most Parker books, the story is secondary to the snappy dialogue and overall unique and engaging writing.
Jim Lester
Robert Parker will be sadly missed and so will the Spenser novels.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

79 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase not what I would have hoped for from the first of the impromptu trilogy of Spenser's final adventures. But Robert B. Parker wasn't planning on the heart attack that took him away.

The primary hole in this book is: no Hawk. He's said to be in Central Asia (presumably Afghanistan though it isn't stated) working for the CIA. As a result, the dialogue suffers from a lack of Parker's trademark repartee. There's also at least one minor continuity breach but nothing that mars the book. It's reminiscent of the earliest books were Spenser referred to the mother who had, in the later books, died while giving him birth.

The plot also, at least in the first 2/3rds of the book, almost reads like a re-write of the previous Spenser novel, "Rough Weather": really bad guy reappears to reclaim a long-lost daughter. But the two novels are alike only in bare outline. The villain is one of Parker's weaker ones. Unlike Rugar, or Joe Broz or Marty Anaheim, there's almost nothing to distinguish him from The Generic Standard Bad Guy from Central Casting. He's not painted with the complex palette that Parker's best villains and anti-heroes usually have. Instead he's essentially one color and a drab one at that.

As I said, tho' it resembles "Rough Weather" it takes a sharp turn, presenting Spenser with one of his trademark dilemmas. The solution, however, is not.

While, to reiterate, I would have preferred a stronger book, this one, despite the flaws listed above, meets all, if not exceeds, the standards we've come to expect from Parker.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mel Odom VINE VOICE on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert B. Parker's Spenser has been my favorite tough guy private eye for decades. Based in Boston, the ex-boxer has faced several rounds with bad guys of every stripe, and confronted all the moral ills of our society. I love Parker's dialogue in the books, and I love the cast of characters that have become part of my extended family.

Painted Ladies starts off with a bang - literally. The art professor Spenser agrees to bodyguard during a buyback from art thieves gets blown to smithereens in Robert B. Parker's latest (and sadly, one of his last) novels. Of course, Spenser being Spenser, the detective needs to do something to square the balance. He sets off to figure out who killed Ashton Prince, and that's going to require finding out why and what the stakes are.

The novel doesn't really introduce anything new into Spenser's world, or into the reading experience of a long-time reader. There are a lot of good one-liners, but fans have come to expect them, and there are the relationship discussions with Susan, and fans have come to expect those as well.

Spenser does his sleuthing in a round-about fashion, something the series has become known for, and gradually steps on the toes of the menacing killer waiting in the wings. There's even some gunplay, which is over entirely too quickly for my tastes, and a boxing sequence that is well done.

I enjoyed seeing Quirk and Belson, seeing how Spenser shared points of view with both men, and I enjoyed seeing Rita Fiore again, though the comparison Susan did with Rita was a bit off-putting. I don't know where that came from and it went on too long and lingered more than it probably should have.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Peter Snow on October 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The plot of Parker's latest novel, Painted Ladies, which centres on the theft of a Dutch masterpiece, is handled with all of Parker's customary deftness, tautly maintaining the tension and interspersing typically sharp Spenserian dialogue with scenes of sudden, shocking violence. But is the new novel a success? Would we pay much attention to it if it had appeared without the context of the preceding series? The two great strengths of the earlier Spenser books - that delving into Spenser's own persona and also into the layers of American society - are largely missing. Despite its Jewish elements the novel makes no real attempt to penetrate the cultural and moral maze of Jewish America. And perhaps it would be unrealistic and over-demanding to expect it.

However there are characteristic and welcome Parker touches, such as his sympathy for the young and vulnerable, which typically even extends as far as the villains. Even the bad guy Herzberg started out with good intentions and, as Susan points out in the closing pages, his descent into crime was in part driven by the historical damage inflicted on him and his family.

Also characteristic is Parker's merciless skewering of the phoneyness and pomposity of academe. What the novel does succeed in doing is to explore and link various kinds of deception and bad faith. Its dominant theme is fraudulence and inauthenticity, themes that perhaps spoke particularly to Parker in age. The `painted ladies' are not just the figures in the genuine and fake paintings but false-seeming characters. No-one is as they seem. Set against their falseness is Spenser's gritty integrity - but even Spenser's occasional attempts to masquerade as a cop in order to get information is emphasised in order to underscore the central theme.
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More About the Author

Robert B. Parker (1932-2010) has long been acknowledged as the dean of American crime fiction. His novel featuring the wise-cracking, street-smart Boston private-eye Spenser earned him a devoted following and reams of critical acclaim, typified by R.W.B. Lewis' comment, "We are witnessing one of the great series in the history of the American detective story" (The New York Times Book Review). In June and October of 2005, Parker had national bestsellers with APPALOOSA and SCHOOL DAYS, and continued his winning streak in February of 2006 with his latest Jesse Stone novel, SEA CHANGE.

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Parker attended Colby College in Maine, served with the Army in Korea, and then completed a Ph.D. in English at Boston University. He married his wife Joan in 1956; they raised two sons, David and Daniel. Together the Parkers founded Pearl Productions, a Boston-based independent film company named after their short-haired pointer, Pearl, who has also been featured in many of Parker's novels.

Parker began writing his Spenser novels in 1971 while teaching at Boston's Northeastern University. Little did he suspect then that his witty, literate prose and psychological insights would make him keeper-of-the-flame of America's rich tradition of detective fiction. Parker's fictional Spenser inspired the ABC-TV series Spenser: For Hire. In February 2005, CBS-TV broadcast its highly-rated adaptation of the Jesse Stone novel Stone Cold, which featured Tom Selleck in the lead role as Parker's small-town police chief. The second CBS movie, Night Passage, also scored high ratings, and the third, Death in Paradise, aired on April 30, 2006.

Parker was named Grand Master of the 2002 Edgar Awards by the Mystery Writers of America, an honor shared with earlier masters such as Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen.

Parker died on January 19, 2010, at the age of 77.

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