From Publishers Weekly
The newest entry in Parker's long-running Spenser series finds the detective's brother-in-arms, Hawk, struggling back to physical and soulful health after being shot. The novel, which chronicles his and Spenser's attempts to hunt down the Ukrainian mobsters who wounded Hawk and murdered Hawk's client, comprises brittle, often funny conversations, too many ruminations on male pride and a few brief, smartly rendered scenes of violence. But its overall effectiveness is severely tested by narrator and veteran actor Mantegna (Godfather III, Bugsy), who's known for his spot-on portrayals of antiheroes and silky raffish types. Conspicuously absent from the actor's credits, listed on the back of the audio, is any mention of his television incarnation of Spenser, possibly because he didn't fit the role. He was too slight and young for the weight-lifting, middle-aged detective and, more significant here, he doesn't sound like Spenser. His voice is soft, with the hint of an accent that's nowhere in the vicinity of Spenser's Boston. And for some reason, the usually shrewd actor overplays Spenser's irony and sarcasm to the point of parody. When a shady government official refers to a character as "a professional," Spenser's reply is "Aren't we all?" This works on paper, but Mantegna treats the line to a singsong rendition that not only makes the sleuth sound like a hipster wannabe, it stops the action cold. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.
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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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