From Publishers Weekly
Parker/Spenser fans will remember Small Vices (1997), wherein the Boston PI was shot nearly dead and his sidekick Hawk nursed him back to health. This strong new Spenser novel flips that scenario, with Hawk shot and Spenser helping him first to get better, then to take revenge. Their targets are Boots Podolak and his army of Ukrainian thugs who run the black/Hispanic Boston satellite city of Marshport. Their goal is more complicated than just vengeance, though. When Boots's henchmen shot Hawk, they also killed the man he was protecting--a rival of Boots--as well as the man's wife and two of his three children, and now Hawk wants not only to destroy Boots and his operation but to channel millions of Boots's money toward the surviving child. To get at Boots, Spenser and Hawk tap on several series regulars, most notably black gangster Tony Marcus, who is doing business with Boots, and the Gray Man, the assassin who nearly killed Spenser in Small Vices; meanwhile, Susan, Spenser's psychiatrist girlfriend, dispenses sage advice, but stays mostly in the background. The novel features a complicated plot, numerous tough guys and plenty of tension that builds to an (interestingly) off-page mano-à-mano shootout between Hawk and Boots. This isn't Parker's best, nor his best Spenser, and the novel has a slightly rushed quality, but it's sincere, visceral entertainment that will more than satisfy the author's fans.
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*Starred Review* With Parker's Spenser series now numbering more than 30 installments, it's no surprise that some of the fast-talking, gourmet-cooking sleuth's fans tend to drop in only now and then to see what's new. Now is definitely the time for a drop-in. The series' best entries all feature a liberal dose of Hawk, Spenser's soft-speaking, big stick-carrying soul mate, and this one is a veritable Hawk showcase. As the tale begins, the heretofore-indestructible Hawk is recovering from a near-death experience: shot in the back while protecting a bookie from the upstart Ukrainian Mob. It's payback time, of course, but not before Hawk nurses himself back to psychic and physical health. Meanwhile, Spenser does a bit of sleuthing on his own, determining that Hawk's assailants are the tip of a Ukrainian iceberg that has stuck its tentacles deep into Boston's underworld. Payback, Hawk style, requires eliminating not just the shooters but also the entire Mob. The action comes in a rush near the end, but the satisfying part here is watching Parker dig deeply into the remarkable friendship between two tough guys constitutionally averse to the whole touchy-feely side of life. "Ain't really your fight," Hawk says. "Yeah," Spenser replies, "It is." "Hawk was quiet for a time, then nodded his head. 'Yeah,' he said. 'It is.'" When he's on his game--and he's on it here--Parker is capable of packing a Hemingway punch into a few brief words and the occasional grunt. Bill Ott
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