School Days is the thirty-third Spenser mystery novel by Robert B. Parker. Is the Spenser series formulaic? Hell, yes. Is Robert B. Parker a good read? Yes, most of the time. School Days is one of the better mysteries in the series.

This latest Robert B. Parker mystery is a bit off the beaten path. Hawk is nowhere to be seen and barely mentioned. Susan Silverman is out of town for all but the last chapter. It is kind of interesting to see Spenser on his own and though Silverman is on the private eye’s mind, it makes for a better read when she is not there.

School Days’ premise is basically what if the two Columbine morons had not, thankfully, offed themselves. Spenser is hired by the grandmother of one of the two kids who went on a shooting rampage at a private school in a Boston suburb. Though she hires him to prove her grandson innocent, Spenser makes it quite clear he will find what he will find. Of course, as in many novels in the series, the detective gets fired before he has completely solved the case but continues his quest for truth and justice.

Though formulaic –and this, to me, is the charm of the Spenser series: popcorn for the brain– School Days is much better than recent novels in the series. Of course, the local chief of police gets annoyed with Spenser. Of course, Spenser gets to take down a guy who is not as scary as he thinks he is. However, the resolution in this one is certainly fresh and believable and this makes for an interesting and fresh story.

If there is a weak moment in School Days it is in chapter 32 where at one point Spenser promises not to involve someone in his case, has a gang-banger vouch for his word, and then says he will involve the same someone if it turns out to be the truth. This is a bit hard to swallow but, what the hell.

School Days – A Spenser Mystery
Robert B. Parker
Berkley 2006

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