Cold Service, the 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.

Cold Service – A Spenser Mystery
Robert B. Parker
Berkley 2006
288 pages

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