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review 2020-06-30 03:51
Classic Spenser: The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker
The Judas Goat - Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser


...I looked at my situation. If they were going to shoot me, there was little to prevent them. Maybe they weren’t going to shoot me, but I couldn’t plan much on that.


“You can’t plan on the enemy’s intentions,” I said. “You have to plan on what he can do, not what he might.”


A boy cleaning the tables looked at me oddly. “Beg pardon, sir?"


“Just remarking on military strategy. Ever do that? Sit around and talk to yourself about military strategy?”


“No, sir.”


“You’re probably wise not to."


We start with Spenser calling on Hugh Dixon. The word "rich" seems inadequate to express the wealth that Dixon seems to possess. Nowadays, he could probably hire a private security firm to do what he needs—maybe he could've in 1978, too. But he's done his research and has decided to hire Spenser instead because he knows Spenser's integrity and priorities are what's kept him "in the minor league."


We're given a great description of Dixon:

Full front, his face was accurate enough. It looked the way of face should, but it was like a skillful and uninspired sculpture. There was no motion in the face. No sense that blood flowed beneath it and thoughts evolved behind it. It was all surface, exact, detailed and dead.


Except the eyes. The eyes snarled with life and purpose, or something like that. I didn't know exactly what then. Now I do.


The eyes snarled with a need for revenge. That's pretty much all that's keeping Dixon going. A year before, he, his wife and daughters were in a London restaurant that was bombed. Dixon lived, although he almost died and lost the use of his legs. The rest of his family did not. He wants Spenser to do what the London police have failed to do—find the terrorists responsible and bringing them to justice—either by apprehending them for the police or killing them. Dixon remained conscious during the attack and has detailed descriptions of the personnel involved. Spenser agrees, after insisting that he doesn't do assassinations—unless forced out of self-defense, he won't be killing anyone. It's all okay with Dixon, but you get the clear impression that he'd prefer they died.


Spenser makes travel arrangements (including learning how to bring his gun into London), says goodbye to Susan, and leaves that night. Dixon's London-based lawyer introduces him to a Scotland Yard inspector who worked the case. There's a group called Liberty who claimed responsibility for the bombing. They're small-time, right-wing, and draw their membership from around Europe—they're likely based in Amsterdam, but that's conjecture. Which really doesn't give Spenser much to work on.


So he tries a little something to draw them out. It results in two of them dying and Spenser being shot in the, ahem, "upper thigh." It also gives Spenser a lead to some others. While he calls Susan to tell her what happened, he also asks her to do him a favor—get word to Hawk that he could use some help (this both relieves and worries Susan, she wants him to have backup, but hates that he needs it).


From here, Spenser and Hawk follow leads for Liberty to Copenhagen and Amsterdam. They even have a brief confrontation with the leader of Liberty, a man named Paul. Paul's not one of the men directly involved in the death of the Dixons, however. Spenser and Hawk determine that Liberty has something planned for the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, and decide that even though the job is done, they need to stop Paul.


On the one hand, it's hard to believe that security at the Olympics is as lax as it appears, then again 1976 was a different time. Through a combination of luck and good guessing, there's a final confrontation with Paul and one of his top associates that ends in a nine-page fistfight between Spenser, Hawk, and a giant of a man named Zachary. This fight blew my preteen/early teen-aged mind when I first read it, and became the standard by which I judged all similar scenes in fiction (there's one in Lee Child's Persuader that reminded me of this one—although, Reacher didn't have anyone fighting on his side).


While there is some deduction at work, this is largely Spenser as vigilante, not as a private investigator. On the one hand, I prefer the P.I. On the other hand, it's a good story and it demonstrates another side of Spenser that we don't get to see much of early on. And like the rest of these first twelve, it's hard for me to engage my critical faculties.

In addition to the globe-trotting and the intense action scenes, we get Spenser's typical narration when it comes to describing places (one of my favorite elements of each book) and people. Spenser's wit and compassion both get to shine. It's just a fun read. The scene that results in his upper thigh wound is one of my favorites in the series—combining humor, tension, and action.


But the thing that struck me the most this time through is that what seems to really interest Parker—more than Spenser, more than this revenge story, or anything else—is Hawk. We met him in the last book, but we didn't get that much time with him, just a handful of scenes. But he's all over this novel.


Spenser calling Hawk to come help represents a turning point in the series. It's not an automatic thing yet, but from here on out, it's more common for Spenser to call up on Hawk for help than not. The self-sufficient, independent operator develops a real dependence. It's a real boon for the reader, for as fun as Spenser's interior monologues are, having him banter with Hawk becomes a reliable highlight. There might be other, earlier, writers who've had a relationship like this, but I'm not aware of them (and would like to be). In Spenser and Hawk, we get the template that Elvis Cole and Joe Pike follow, or Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro and Bubba Rugowski, or Walt Longmire and Henry Standing Bear, or Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski, among others. The outsider, the friend/ally that the mostly lawful protagonist can rely on when there's a need for something outside the law.


From Promised Land, we know that Hawk and Spenser fought on the same card in their youth; we know he's stylish (I guess); that he's respectful of Susan; he's an enforcer, a leg-breaker, for whoever is paying for him at the moment; and he has some sort of code that reminds Spenser of his (with significant differences in Spenser's mind, but not so much in Hawk's).


Here we learn a bit more, he can disappear into a crowd, despite his flashy clothes and is almost infallible when tailing someone. Shortly after arriving in London, the two have some drinks while Spenser catches Hawk up on what's going on and notes:


He showed no sign that he drunk anything. In fact in the time I'd known Hawk I'd never seen him show a sign of anything. He laughed easily and he was never off balance. But whatever went on inside stayed inside. Or maybe nothing went on inside. Hawk was as impassive and hard as an obsidian carving. Maybe that was what went on inside.


Later, when Spenser is in Boston to update Dixon, he leaves one member of Liberty with Hawk, as they use her as a source of information on the rest of the group. When Susan asks if that's safe to do, Spenser replies:


“Hawk has no feelings,” I said. “But he has rules. If she fits one of his rules, he’ll treat her very well. If she doesn’t, he’ll treat her any way the mood strikes him.”

“Do you really think he has no feelings?”


“I have never seen any. He’s as good as anyone 1 ever saw at what he does. But he never seems happy or sad or frightened or elated. He never, in the twenty-some years I’ve known him, here and there, has shown any sign of love or compassion. He’s never been nervous. He’s never been mad.”


“Is he as good as you?” Susan was resting her chin on her folded hands and looking at me.


"He might be," I said. "He might be better."


“He didn’t kill you last year on Cape Cod when he was supposed to. He must have felt something then.”


“I think he likes me, the way he likes wine, the way he doesn’t like gin. He preferred me to the guy he was working for. He sees me as a version of himself. And, somewhere in there, killing me on the say-so of a guy like Powers was in violation of one of the rules. I don’t know. I wouldn’t have killed him either.”


“Are you a version of him?”


“I got feelings,” I said. “I love.”


“Yes, you do,” Susan said.


Part of this conversation will repeat throughout the series—is Hawk better than Spenser? Are the two versions of each other (this was touched upon already in Promised Land)? Does Hawk feel?


Hawk will contend that the two of them are more similar than Spenser will admit, but in The Judas Goat and in countless other books, he will note that Spenser's abundance of rules helps him to deny that similarity, over-complicates Spenser's life, and one day will get him killed. There are times when Spenser agrees to all of that (even the last), but those are the only terms upon which he can live his life, so that's how it's going to have to be.


Exciting, amusing, tense, and we get to delve for the first time into the character that's arguably Parker's greatest creation. The Judas Goat really has it all. If only so I had an excuse to read this one again, I'm so glad I started this little project this year. It will serve as a decent jumping-on point, for those who want one, and it's a great spot to return to for long-term fans.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/06/29/classic-spenser-the-judas-goat-by-robert-b-parker
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review 2020-06-14 07:06




The only thing worse than being locked in is facing what you locked out...
Rett Ward knows how to hide. He's had six years of practice at Walling Home, the state-run boarding school where he learned how to keep his head down to survive.
But when Rett wakes up locked in a small depot with no memory of how he got there, he can't hide. Not from the stranger in the next room. Or from the fact that there's someone else’s blood on his jumpsuit.
Worse, every time he tries to escape, he wakes up right back where he started. Same day, same stranger, same bloodstained jumpsuit.
As memories start to surface, Rett realizes that the logo on the walls is familiar, the stranger isn't a stranger, and the blood on his jumpsuit belongs to someone—or something—banging on the door to get in.





In the beginning, I thought that I had mistakenly touched my phone and made the audiobook rewind because it seemed to be repeating what I already listened too...but I didn't do that...the story actually just keeps repeating, at least for a little while...but it was subtlety different each time it repeated.  Once I figured that out I was really into this mysterious, time-jumping, mild altering, sci-fi-ish adventure.
Eventually, though, it kind of lost me. The story is intriguing, the characters were likable...but I'm not sure that the plotline is something that could be pulled off in as many pages (only 306) that this was.  Overall, I was not completely enamored with the writing, it left me feeling like I was missing something important.  
Narration by Matt Godfrey was good...It didn't wow me but I also didn't have any issues with it.  I would gladly listen to him again.


Narration Rating 4¼ STARS
Plot 3.8/5
Characters 4/5
The Feels 3.5/5
Pacing 3.8/5
Addictiveness 3.8/5
Theme, Tone or Intensity 4/5
Originality/Believability 4/5
Flow (Writing Style/Ease of Listening) 3/5
Twisty-ness/Mystery 3.2/5
Ending 3.5/5

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review 2020-06-07 16:30
Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment - Parker Curry,Jessica Curry,Brittany Jackson
For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

An absolutely stunning book about a simple trip to the museum that inspired one little girl's dreams. A perfect example of why representation is so important. Every person needs to see themselves positively reflected in all areas to feel connection and show that they can do anything.

The simple narration worked perfectly for this story. It is a simple story and when told in a simple way, it really emphasizes the experience and impact rather than getting bogged down in wordy narration.

Also, that artwork is just perfect. I loved the bright feel. Each page is magical. That's nothing else to say. Every bit of it is amazing and adds to the inspiration of the story.

A beautiful work that emphasizes positive representation, inspiration, confidence, kindness, and the drive to do anything. Simple yet eloquent. A lovely book that shows how one simple moment can change the world. 
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review 2020-06-03 14:48
"Scare Me" by Richard Jay Parker
Scare Me - Richard Jay Parker

I am amazed how some authors have such twisted imagination to pen gory, creepy thrillers that slowly draw its readers deep into a fictional world and leave them speechless because passing time with them is such a thrill…yes this one is that good

“When did you last Google yourself”. Aren’t you a bit curious?

This is the story of a wealthy businessman, Will Frost, who after being woken up in the middle of the night by a mysterious caller goes online to find a site in his name showing photos inside his home along with six other houses he has never seen before. A murder was committed in the first house and then he is told his daughter has been kidnapped and to save her he needed to visit each of the houses before the police shows up. Given tidbits of information Will is then on a wild chase around the world and founds himself running the deserted streets and smack into violence and murder…..is it scary…maybe…maybe not…

What a read. This psychological thriller has kept my full attention throughout. This story is so full of tension and intrigue I simple had to push on to see what would happen next. There is so much action and so many unexpected twists and turns to keep us on our toes, I had little chance to get off. It is such a very hard story to put down. Vividly said, the images described are imprinted in my mind. I definitely wouldn’t want to be in Will shoes.

Mr. Parker’s background as a TV script writer shines in this story and shows how skilled he is in portraying action and his characters’ emotion with the right words. Ok, I admit this story is far-fetched borders implausible but it makes for a very entertaining read. I love how the suspense exceeds the last words….Maybe a sequel….hope so..

I received “Scare Me” as a complimentary book from Lume Books with no obligations to write a review.

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review 2020-05-30 04:26
Promised Land - Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser

"Whose picture is on a one-hundred dollar bill?" I said.


"Nelson Rockefeller." [Susan said]




"David Rockefeller?"


"Never mind."


"Laurence Rockefeller?"


"Where would you like to go to lunch?"


"You shouldn't have shown me the money. I was going to settle for Ugi's steak and onion subs. Now I'm thinking about Pier 4."


"Pier 4 it is...Come on, we'll go back to my place and suit up."


"When you get a client," Susan said, "you galvanize into action, don't you?"


"Yes, ma'am. I move immediately to the nearest restaurant."

Harv Shepard's wife walked out on him and he wants Spenser to find her and bring her home. Spenser agrees to the first part of that—he'll find her, make sure she's healthy and under no duress, but he won't force her to come home. Shepard agrees to that, so Spenser starts digging. It takes him practically no time at all to discover that their relationship wasn't as good as Shepard insists it was (Shepard doesn't seem to find his wife leaving home to be a big clue)—and that Pam herself might not be as happy or well-adjusted as she let on.

It doesn't take Spenser that long at all to find Pam and see that she's okay. She's not that interested in coming home, and Spenser's prepared to let it lie like that. But she soon calls Spenser for help—and like the knight errant he is, Spenser obliges. She's found herself neck-deep in serious legal problems and it'll take an ingenious plan to get her out of it while not letting criminals get away with anything.


The trickier part of the equation comes from a man called Hawk.* When Spenser first arrives at Shepard's house,


Shepard appeared from the door past the stairs. With him was a tall black man with a bald head and high cheekbones. He had on a powder blue leisure suite and a pink silk shirt with a big collar. The shirt was unbuttoned to the waist and the chest and stomach that showed were hard and unadorned as ebony. He took a pair of sunglasses from the breast pocket of the jacket and put them on, he stared at me over their rims until very slowly the lenses covered his eyes and he started at me through them.

* Yeah, I couldn't resist.


As Spenser soon tells Shepard, Hawk's presence means that he's got bigger problems than a missing wife. Shepard denies it, but Spenser believes he's into a loan shark and/or mobster for a pretty large sum and is behind on payments. It won't be long until Hawk is hurting Shepard—if not more than that—in order to get this money.


Hawk and Spenser go far back—they used to fight on the same heavyweight card and come into frequent contact in their current occupations. Hawk's a freelancer and is one of the best in Boston. He's not a good guy, but he has a code. There's a mutual respect between the two and Spenser is quick to defend Hawk against Shepard's racial slurs. Hawk as a character deserves more space than I'm giving him at the moment—but that's all I can do for now. I'll probably find a way to give him a few paragraphs in the post about the next book.


So not only does Spenser need to get Pam out of her legal mess, he takes on getting Harv out of his illegal mess. He does so through a complicated set-up assisted by a couple of the funniest cops I remember reading about. It's a shame that neither of these reappear the way that Healy, Belson and Quirk do (although, it'd be hard to take them seriously). It's hard to explain, you'll need to read them for yourselves.


Toward the end of the previous book, Mortal Stakes it looked like Spenser is getting more serious about Susan and less serious about his other dating relationship with Brenda Loring—there's a reference to Brenda early on in this book*, but by the end, Susan and Spenser are as close to married as they're ever going to get—essentially pledging monogamy without the legal/religious contract. This is huge for the genre at the time—and bigger for the character.


Unless I'm mistaken, that's the last reference to Brenda outside of a short story in the series. [Update: She's mentioned in the next book, so I read the reference about 5 hours after I published this]


While Spenser tries to extricate the Shepards from the trouble they've found themselves in—and hopefully provide them with the opportunity to work on their marriage (at least enough to make a calm decision about its fate), Parker uses the Shepards as well as Susan and Spenser to discuss second-wave feminism in a somewhat abstract fashion, but also in concrete terms as it applies to each of these couples. Parker takes the opportunity to opine a bit on isms and how they tend to swallow the individual—where he prefers to consider such topics (this is assuming that Spenser and Parker align on these ideas, but there's no reason to suspect they don't). The reader may not agree with them any of the views they read in these pages, but they're fairly well reasoned.


In Promised Land, we meet Hawk and Susan and Spenser become permanent (for lack of a better term). These two things are the final pieces to come into place as the foundation for the series—they'll take a more final form in the next book, but we have them all now. Every other book in the series is built on what's introduced up to this point and finalized in The Judas Goat. For a series that's lasted 44 years after the publication of this one, that's quite the accomplishment.


A significant portion of American Detective Fiction since then will be shaped by this, too—people will be reacting against this set-up or putting their series in a similar vein. Personally, I'll get to the point (eventually) where Susan stops adding anything to the series. But I've yet to tire of Hawk. He may be the kind of guy who should spend the rest of his life behind bars, but he's also the kind of character than you can't help but love when he shows up on the page. We'll revisit Hawk (and his contribution to the series) later, but for now, it's just good to sit back and enjoy him.


You take all the above, mix them together—and you've got a true classic. Parker looks at marriage and feminism—and, of course, honor—while his protagonist matches wits with a mobster. Told with Parker's trademark style and wit. Few things are as good as that—fewer yet are better.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2020/05/29/classic-spenser-promised-land-by-robert-b-parker
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