Cold Service, the latest (2006) Robert B. Parker Spenser book out in paperback is not his best mystery novel. Fans of the Spenser series might have rolled their eyes a bit when they learned the plot in Cold Service involved Hawk getting shot at and Spenser seeking revenge because in many ways it sounds like the reverse plot of a previous private eye novel, Small Vices. It is not, but fans will roll their eyes at this one for other reasons.
Not that I am one for political correctness, by far, but Cold Service gets on your nerves after a while with the Massa / white folk banter Spenser and Hawk exchange and there are definitely more than a few bad guys in this novel who do not mind using racial slurs when dealing with Hawk. The racial slurs is one thing, the Massa talk between Spenser and Hawk seems to be there only to show how hip and cool Spenser is with his Black associate. In some ways, these bits of dialogue seem to have replaced Robert B. Parker’s previous favorite page filler: incomplete recipes when the private eye cooked for Susan, long descriptions of what she wore, and observations about Pearl the wonder dog.
Plot wise, Cold Service is fairly predictable. Hawk gets shot, he and Spenser go out to avenge this act by making nuisances of themselves, the bad guys come looking for them, and so on. The Gray Man, a character from Small Vices (which, by the way, was a pretty decent Spenser made for TV movie) shows up about halfway in this mystery novel. There is also a lot of talk about what being a man is and means, another favorite Robert B Parker topic of late.
Spenser and Hawk spend most of this mystery going around without a plan. This gets so bad that Susan Silverman is the one who helps them start thinking of one. Unfortunately, you get the feeling that the protagonists’ lack of direction is really Parker going through the motions until something will come up so he can end this novel.
Cold Service is a much lesser Spenser novel. Fans will enjoy it somewhat but this is not the book to introduce new readers to the series.
Other Robert B. Parker Reviews
Double Play: Double Play, a suspense built around the story of baseball great Jackie Robinson
Melancholy Baby - A Sunny Randall Mystery: An entertaining whodunit.
Sea Change - A Jesse Stone Mystery: The fifth Jesse Stone novel and a solid read.
School Days - A Spenser Mystery: One of the better Spenser mystery novels. No Hawk, no Silverman.
Jesse Stone : Death In Paradise DVD: Third Jesse Stone DVD starring Tom Selleck, really really good mystery.
Jesse Stone: Night Passage DVD: First Robert B. Parker Jesse Stone second DVD in the series.
Hundred-Dollar Baby - A Spenser Mystery: A dreadful Spenser mystery. A waste of time and money
Blue Screen - A Sunny Randall Mystery: Very ordinary Sunny Randall mystery with stupid ending.
Jesse Stone : Sea Change DVD: Good stuff if subdued
High Profile - A Jesse Stone Mystery: Readable? Yes. Believable? Hmmm.
Spare Change - A Sunny Randall Mystery: Sunny Randall and her dad team up to find a serial killer. Not a bad novel.
High Profile - A Jesse Stone Mystery: Banal mystery by writer who puts out too much.
Night and Day - A Jesse Stone Mystery: Good read and toss kind of mystery.
Jesse Stone - No Remorse DVD: Very moody but very good made for TV mystery
Rough Weather - A Spenser Mystery: Decent enough for a later Spenser.
Painted Ladies - A Spenser Novel: 39th Spenser and as ordinary as the last 12 or so
Jesse Stone - Innocents Lost DVD: 2011 TV movie. Good but formulaic
Jesse Stone - Benefit of the Doubt DVD: Eighth in the series and just as good.