Top positive review
39 people found this helpful
It's a Comfortable Long Term Relationship
on January 27, 2007
Spenser is really a series that you have to read from the beginning if you want to understand what is going on. Hundred-Dollar Baby is no exception. April Kyle, the lead character from Ceremony and Taming a Sea Horse, is back again - now running her own whorehouse in Boston. Unfortunately, someone's trying to take a cut of her profits, and she doesn't want any "men" interfering with her female-only business.
This is "comfort zone" for Spenser - many of his cases have involved feminists who insist they want to do things with women only, and end up relying on Spenser for help. There's not even any preamble in this one - April's in his office from moment one of the story, needing Spenser to rescue her from trouble. And while she claims she doesn't really need any man-help, it turns out her entire plan for life was laid out by a man and she had a male bouncer keeping her safe.
Of course, as is traditional, things get messy quickly, Spenser has no idea what's going on, so he randomly follows people to see what happens. He stirs up some hornets nests. Susan and he talk dirty and have a sex life that's rather active for someone who, according to stated birthdates, has just turned 70. But we suspend disbelief and understand that even though he was 37 in 1973, he hasn't quite aged "normally" since then.
The key here is that if you've read the series all along, when just like long-term married couples, you are extremely familiar with the people and situations. You know Teddy Sapp, Patricia Utley, Hawk, and other people who move in and out of the story - you know their ups, downs, quirks, loves. It's like when an older couple has a conversation along the lines of "Remember that time in Paris?" "I loved the whipped cream". They don't need to say any more, they both know the whole story and meaning and why it's relevant to the current situation. The same is true here - you know that Susan's look is palpable, you've heard that 20 times. You know Hawk can easily switch between high English and low po-boy talk.
So you don't read Spenser books for shocking gore or Philip K Dick like twists. You often can outguess what is going to happen. If anything, Hundred-Dollar Baby is more comfy than several previous ones. No front-page topics here, just another whore story where Spenser tries to give them a hand, defeating thugs who try to take him in, and talking with various underworld types. No new Russian mob, no terrorists, no new characters at all, really. No new locations - you stick right around Boston and a little of New York.
Interestingly, depending on your point of view, this can be good or bad. I really liked this book a lot - I thought it had a different ending than most Spenser books tend to, and it didn't do the "bring in 20 characters for a hoe-down" which had been done several times in the past. The few characters brought in were important to the story. I appreciated that he didn't re-hash items (like the Palpable Susan Eyes) that often get mentioned in every single book.
On the other hand, my boyfriend, who's also an avid Spenser fan and has read all the books, seen all the tv-movies etc., felt there was little going on here. It's more of a short story of "What happened to April" with little development, character, or plot. He felt the storyline was so broadcasted that you could sort of read along in your sleep, since you knew pretty much what each character would do and say.
So there you go. If you're looking for a cutting edge, new story with intricate characters and 24-alive plotlines, this probably isn't the book for you. If you're looking to pick up your first Parker book, I wouldn't start here. It'd be like walking into a 40th wedding anniversary without knowing anyone and missing out on all the in-jokes and story backgrounds. But if you've been reading Spenser all along - or are willing to spend a few weeks catching yourself up on the storyline, this really is a nice continuation. It's a closing out of a story we spent a lot of time with, and it adds a little more depth to Spenser's character.