The first couple of pages of this book irritated me with their conformance to so many hard-boiled detective cliches. Then I read the other 295p in two sessions - and I wish it had been only one, because the break came just before the denouement and it lost a bit of tension because of that. Not the author's fault, rather the tyrany of clocks combined with my ridiculous (lack of) sleep rhythm.
Apparently this is the bajillionth book in the series of novels about Spenser, former cop, PI with a Code of Honour. There are approximately another bajillion that come after it, too. It's a genuine 'friller, page-turning, not easily predictable. It's also not quite as cliched as it appears (in the first two pages). Spenser isn't a womaniser, for instance. He is also humanised and raised "above the streets" not so much by hints of intellectual depth (e.g. Marlowe's chess games and Joe Kurtz' reading list) as by the peeks behind his mask. The hard-boiled detective is a persona - Spenser uses it because it is expected of him and because it offers emotional protection. Also, Spenser does not really have a Code of Honour, after all. Instead he just has a sensse of right and wrong that isn't necessarily rigid or overly informed by the concept of duty - nothing about it seems codified at all, in fact.
So initially Spenser is a lone gunman going up against a corrupt town, single-handed. It could have gone into A Fistful of Dollars territory but actually never strayed a step in that direction and by the end Spenser had put together such a regular little Scooby Gang that I was half surprised that a Slayer, a werewolf, a vacuum-head, a brainy girl and a wise-cracking side-kick didn't show up. Or a brainy girl, a vacuum-head, a jock, a coward and his cowardly mutt...
Anyroad, this was such fun amusement that I would happily read more from Parker, but I have heard rumours that the latter part of the series shows a decline in quality. Maybe I shall try to hunt up the first one. Perhaps I should hire a PI to do it for me, but I think the trail of corpses might make me feel both scared and possibly guilty. Spenser wouldn't feel the former of those two; maybe the latter.