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3.5 out of 5 stars
Widow's Walk (Spenser)
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After reading Robert B. Parker's latest Spenser incarnation, WIDOW'S WALK, I don't think I can answer that question. I suspect that anyone else reviewing this book will come to the same conclusion if they re-read the last 75 pages of the book. As such and given the incredibly high marks given by most reviewers of this book, I fear my review will be quite unpopular.
Spenser is hired by the leggy redhead attorney, Rita Fiore (a returning character) to find out who killed Nathan Smith. Smith, a blue blood banker with an impeccable reputation in Boston, was killed in his bed allegedly while his much younger wife, Mary, was watching television in another part of their three-story home. Without the appearance of a break-in or security breach, all circumstantial evidence points to Mary as suicide has been ruled out given the absence of the gun at the crime scene. When Spenser begins questioning Mary, he immediately finds that she lacks the intellectual capacity to string together basic sentences much less understand how or why her husband has been killed. Spenser's not so certain that Mary is deficient in mental faculty department or is putting on a grandiose act.
As Spenser begins his investigation, he immediately picks up a tail. After interviewing the Smiths' stockbroker, Spenser is accosted by the two tailing thugs. In true Spenser fashion, he provides his would-be attackers with the beating they so richly deserve. Shortly thereafter, people directly and peripherally attached to this case begin dying in savage order. Parker takes the reader through the typical investigatory scheme and provides a climax that left this reader scratching his head.
I've read all of Parker's Spenser novels and typically wait anxiously for the next offering. However, with this particular novel, I'm wondering what Bob was thinking. He maintains his easy-to-read chapters and storyline cadence of previous Spenser offerings but in this reviewer's opinion, that's about it. Several things were missing here: 1) a heavy dose of Spenser witticisms {Parker typically has me laughing out loud with Spenser's one-liners; not so here}, 2) an incredible lack of Hawk and his captivating mannerisms {if one is a true fan of Spenser, you know what I mean), 3) lack of character development of the resident villain (I don't know what to say here; Parker has an uncanny knack of providing the reader the psyche of the book's villain; not so in WIDOW'S WALK), and 4) WHO KILLED NATHAN SMITH?! As to my last comment here, the individual(s) responsible for the death of Nathan Smith is never disclosed.
All in all, a very disappointing Spenser for me however, as a true fan, I'll be there for the next offering.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In a scene in Robert Parker's "Widow's Walk," Spenser is explaining his newest case to Susan Silverman while she makes egg salad. When I found myself thinking about why Susan would decide to use Miracle Whip instead of mayonaise, and paying no attention to whether Spenser's ditsy blonde client killed her husband, I realized that something had gone seriously wrong here. Even Parker is more interested in the egg salad than he should be. He doesn't seem to care about the people he created, nor about what happens to them.
I can understand it, poor guy. Imagine trying to keep caring when you're writing the twenty-ninth book of a series. But, although it is easy to understand, it is not at all easy to keep ploughing through the result.
"Widow's Walk" is a badly written book, and even Spenser himself -- who's greatest appeal for me is his rock-solid resolve to help wherever he can -- can't help on this one. He says, more than half-way through the book, that he has no idea what is going on with his case. And neither do we.
The novels we never forget share one thing in common. They make us care a very great deal about what happens to their characters. Pick up "The Count of Monte Cristo" and you'll see that Dumas accomplished it in what may be a record, in the first paragraphs of the first page. Dickins does it. Tolstoy does it. Flaubert does it. And Parker does it. Paul Giacomin as he grew into himself, under Spenser's inimitable guidance, is a beautifully wrought and memorable character.
Spenser lends his strength, his wit, his savvy and his great heart to his clients because he cares what happens to them. And so do we. But not in "Widow's Walk."
Forget this one happened, Parker, and please do it for us again.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
There are no big surprises in "Widow's Walk" and no great social questions to be explored. It is very much a standard Spenser novel, where the stalwart and flippant Boston PI takes on the bad guys. The case is simple: investigate the murder of a wealthy banker to help his much younger blonde wife beat the homicide charge. She can't be as dumb as she seems. Or maybe she really is. Spenser and Hawk and Susan are their usual selves. Not an earthshaking novel, but a good fast read that kept me turning the pages as more and more bodies piled up. Hey, "Widow's Walk" isn't going to win the Pulitzer Prize, but I'll be waiting happily for next year's Spenser novel...
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The book list provided by the publisher shows that this his forty-second work, twenty-ninth in the Spencer series. That is an astonishing creative space over which to maintain literary momentum. Naturally, quality varies, but Robert Parker has proven that he can consistently produce enjoyable mysteries, some of which are actually exceptional. I haven't been as pleased with the last few stories, which have sometimes felt like caricatures of themselves, but "Widow's Walk" seems signal a return to the style of old.
When Spenser is hired to try to prove that Mary Smith did not kill Nathan, her husband, his first reaction was that this was a hopeless case. Even Mary's lawyer is convinced her client is guilty. The death occurred in a locked house and the gun is missing. Mary and Nathan have been seen fighting and it seems that she tried to hire someone to kill him. Worse, Mary has made a career of being one or two steps removed from reality, and she hasn't been particularly helpful.
Nevertheless Spencer undertakes the case and finds the simple surface conceals an unending stream of complications and misrepresentations. There is trouble at Nathan's bank, his sex life is ambiguous, and people start to die. In fact, Spencer himself comes under attack. All this keeps the detective and his good friend Hawk busy, but it doesn't really seem to lead anywhere. Nothing makes Mary look any less guilty and the death toll keeps mounting.
Parker's story telling relies on sharp, sarcastic dialogue. Most often Spencer resolves a case by poking at everything until it begins to unravel, and "Widow's Walk" is no exception. In this case, though, the dialogue has turned down a notch from the peak it reached in "Potshot" and "Hugger Mugger." The result is more realistic exchanges and a smoother feel to the story. The plot, however, moves a bit too mechanically for me. At times things just seem to happen rather than develop one after the other. But that is often the nature of a Spenser tale.
Despite these slight flaws I found the book very entertaining. Pearl the wonder dog still lives and Spenser still finds Susan the sexiest woman he knows. And the old characters are still there in all their usual eccentric feistiness. There are times when we need to get away from books with great quantities of character development and just relax in a comfort zone. Save this book for one of those moments.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
We'll never tire of Spenser. I'm pretty certain of that. Even when we know the guy's going to end up being 80 years old, still checking out the babes, beating up the bad guys, with an emotional United Nations of friends and camp followers, even then we'll always enjoy his company for a few hundred pages.
Here he hooks up with an old flame, Rita Fiore, tries to help her client, the incredibly dumb Mary Smith, hangs with Cimoli, Quirk, Belson, Vinnie and Hawk, has his ashes hauled as usual by the ever size 5 Susan, and in the end, well, you know.
One disappointment for me was that he doesn't seem as sad as he used to be once faced with the darker side of the whims of life. As a consequence, Susan's sadness at the suicide of one of her patient's seems almost trite, certainly unnecessary. But it's Spenser being Spenser.
Hard to beat the early Spensers, but the recent ones ain't too shabby either. This one, "Widow's Walk," is one of the better novels of Parker's cast in the last ten years. Nevertheless, if you're new to the quintessential PI you shouild start with the early ones. These are some of the best mysteries in the last 50 years. Like the game we would play when we were kids, if you were going to take 10 mysteries with you on a deserted island, three would be by Parker written before 1985, possibly Gudwulf, Rachel Wallace, Ceremony, God Save the Child or A Savage Place.
But as Watson would tell Holmes, I digress. Spenser fans won't be disappinted in Widow's Walk.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 22, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Spenser, Boston's toughest and most philosophical private eye, is hired to investigate the death of Nathan Smith, a rich upper class bank owner. The prime suspect is Mary Smith, the dead man's widow who is twenty years younger and appears to have the I.Q. of a turnip. Mary is so dumb acting that everyone, including the District Attorney's office, isn't buying it. Hired by Rita Fiore, Spenser puts an edge on his sleuthing skills and dares to ask questions of the wealthy and the elite, looking for the right rock to turn over that will point to the real murderer. The trail is twisted and there are a number of players with their own agendas. In no time at all, Spenser is on his home turf, taking the good fight to trained thugs and would-be assassins.
Robert B. Parker has set the bar with his poetic private eye, and Spenser is the standard that a whole generation of authors of tough guy private investigator fiction have been measured against. The author has written 29 books about Spenser, 3 about female private eye Sunny Randall, 3 about small town police chief Jesse Stone, a recent Western novel featuring Wyatt Earp, 2 about Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe, and a handful of stand-alone tales. The Spenser books were also the source material for ABC's SPENSER: FOR HIRE television series starring Robert Urich, and a string of A & E movies that now feature Joe Mantegna.
As in any Robert B. Parker work, the prose is sparse and dead-on, the dialogue crisp and clean, and the hero featured up front and center. WIDOW'S WALK has a lot to offer to old fans in the way of action and one-liners. The cynical wit and the camaraderie with Hawk and Belson, the relationship with Susan Silverman, are all in place in this addition to the Spenser franchise.
The overall plot sometimes comes across as thin and hard to get at. Banking terms and financial situations remain somewhat hazy, though the reader never gets the impression that Parker is playing fast and loose with them. Susan's loss of a patient through suicide comes across as a near-miss. The loss and Susan are important, but so far distant from what Spenser is working and dealing with that the death should have been excised from the book or given more weight, whether in terms of the Smith case or touching more directly on the Spenser/Susan relationship. The final villain, even though the reader is prepared for him, remained off stage so much that he seemed like a shadow and never came to life in any way.
A Spenser novel isn't designed or meant to be a heavy cerebral experience. Spenser is a hands-on, shoot-'em-up type of guy, the kind of man that the male and female audience who are fans of action and adventure can stand up and cheer for. Readers experienced with Spenser and Parker will want to add this book to their collection, and readers that want to embrace a new author and a new tough guy hero can pick this book up and be able to make a critical judgment on whether to pick up the rest of this exciting series. Robert B. Parker and Spenser always deliver exactly what they set out to do: a look into crime and a man's vision of himself and the cause-and-effect relationship he has with his world. The writing is simply the best, tight and efficient and involving.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format: Hardcover
Rita Fiore hired Spenser to investigate whether her client Mary Smith murdered her husband. In this 29th outing our hero has to try and help a woman who just has to be the dumbest character he has ever encountered in his entire career. Seriously. Robert B. Parker might even have given Mary the funniest line he has ever written. Rest assured, you will know it when you read it because the line simply has to be the stupidest thing ever said by a suspect to a cop in the history of detective fiction.
"Widow's Walk" is very much a traditional Spenser story, where our hero gets nowhere but plugs on determinedly knowing that sooner or later he will tick somebody off. There is something of a twist to this approach this time around because although we do have the obligatory scenes where a couple of thugs try to show Spenser the error of his ways, the main thing here is the growing number of bodies he is leaving in his wake through the course of his investigation. We also learn that the end may well be near for one of the more beloved supporting players in the series. This is not a great Spenser novel, but it is a solid effort and it seems like it has been a while since we had one of those. Certainly I laughed more reading this one than I have Parker's other recent efforts.
Final comment: Parker's novels have always been ideal for those of us living the commuter lifestyle, but that might make "Widow's Walk" something of a liability in hardback. I polished this book off in about two hours and that was without trying hard and stopping to explain why I was making annoying laughing sounds from time to time. That would make the per hour rate relatively high, especially compared to something like the latest Tom Clancy opus.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio Cassette
Few voice artists can rival Joe Mantegna. He brings an unparalleled depth of understanding to the characters he represents. Perhaps this isn't surprising when one remembers that he's a Tony Award-winner for his portrayal of the memorable Richard Roma in David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross.
His stellar Broadway credits would be impressive enough, but don't forget the big screen - he's starred in such feature films as Godfather III, Bugsy, and Searching for Bobby Fischer. Mantegna brings every ounce of this ability to his readings - close your eyes, relax, and let the story unfold as only he can tell it.
And, this story is a spellbinder. Robert Parker brings back Spenser, one of America's favorite private investigators in another suspenseful tale laced with spine tingling action and crunching dialogue.
When 51-year-old Nathan Smith is murdered, his young wife is immediately suspect. Few believe her innocence but she has multi millions so she retains the best to get her out of this jam. Never one to turn down a hefty fee, Spenser takes the case even though the widow's alibi wouldn't stand up in a slight breeze. Mary Smith says she was watching the tube in another room when her husband went to join the heavenly host.
Furthermore, witnesses saw the couple loudly disagreeing earlier in the evening and the prosecution has a fellow eager to testify that Mary once tried to pay him to kill Nathan. Stir in another murder and you have a tempest in tea town. Good luck Spenser!

As always the remarkable Mr. Parker gives readers what they want - roller coaster ride action, and cleverly conceived characters. Mr. Mantegna gives listeners what they want - a superb reading.
- Gail Cooke
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Another good Spenser book if you are a true fan -- a mediocre book to read if you are not a fan. This was not as good as some of Parker's earlier books, but if you are like me - a Spenser fan, it was great reading of Spenser, Hawk, Susan, Rita, Quirk and Vinnie again. The storyline is that the young pretty wife of an old rich man is blamed for his murder and Rita Fiore (widow's lawyer) hires Spenser to uncover the truth. Spenser in his usual fashion annoys people until the bad guy thinks he is getting too close and tries something, then Spenser is on the chase. I kind of wish that Parker had not diverted his time and effort on other endeavors like Wyatt Earp, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall books and kept the Spenser writing high. What I would really like is for Parker to write a pre-series book on how Spenser got in so tight with Hawk and Vinnie -- who are such serious dudes that it is hard to image them helping Spenser out as much as they do for free. I have read all the Spenser books, watched the Spenser TV shows and made for TV movies and about the only times Spenser has helped out Hawk is when Hawk has gotten into trouble helping Spenser.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My copy of this Spenser novel was borrowed, not purchased. Therefore, the fact that it isn't quite as good as most of the others I've read didn't bother me too much. If you read a dozen or so of the many other reviews posted here, you will get a pretty good idea of what's weak in "Widow's Walk." After so many years, those of us who have read most or all in the series can just about predict the dialogue from Spenser, Susan and Hawk. And Robert B. Parker's books are almost all dialogue. He never wastes much time on needless description. That's a trait I happen to like, but others may disagree. It's a quick read, and it did keep my interest enough to make me postpone a little housework to spend time finishing. I like all the characters so much, but I would enjoy another Sunny Randle outing soon, and maybe a book in which Hawk takes center stage at long last. Spenser and Susan have had a great run, but both are truly darn close to retirement age. Had I purchased this in hardcover, I would have felt less than satisfied. Perhaps in the next one, Spenser could sell his private eye biz to a protege and just be teaching him or her the ropes? Pearl the wonder dog seems close to death in this episode. I have loved Mr. Parker's books for 20 years. I don't think he needs to retire totally, as has Dick Francis, but it seems time to let Spenser recede.
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