Bad Business (Spenser Series #31)

Bad Business (Spenser Series #31)

3.8 18
by Robert B. Parker, Joe Mantegna

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When Marlene Cowley hires Spenser to see if her husband Trent is cheating on her, he encounters more than he bargained for: not only does he find a two-timing husband, but a second investigator as well, hired by the husband to look after his wife. As a result of their joint efforts, Spenser soon finds himself investigating both individual depravity and


When Marlene Cowley hires Spenser to see if her husband Trent is cheating on her, he encounters more than he bargained for: not only does he find a two-timing husband, but a second investigator as well, hired by the husband to look after his wife. As a result of their joint efforts, Spenser soon finds himself investigating both individual depravity and corporate corruption.

It seems the folks in the Cowleys' circle have become enamored of radio talk show host Darrin O'Mara, whose views on Courtly Love are clouding some already fuzzy minds with the notion of cross-connubial relationships. O'Mara's brand of sex therapy is unconventional at best, unlawful—and deadly—at worst. Then a murder at Kinergy, where Trent Cowley is CFO, sends Spenser in yet another direction. Apparently, the unfettered pursuit of profit has a price.

With razor sharp characterizations and finely honed prose, this is Parker at the height of his powers.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Spenser #31 finds the veteran Boston PI tackling corporate crime in a routine yet absorbing outing. As usual, Spenser enters the case at an angle, this time because he's hired by one Marlene Rowley to prove that her husband Trent, CFO of energy firm Kinergy, is cheating on her. Before long the PI learns that marital cheating is all the rage among Kinergy's players, with the hanky-panky orchestrated by radio personality Darrin O'Mara, who runs popular sex seminars on the side. Maybe all that cheating explains why Spenser keeps running into other PIs hired by Kinergy folk, but it doesn't point to why Trent is found shot dead at Kinergy headquarters. Spenser links Kinergy's slick founder/CEO to the sex ring and blackmails him to gain access to Kinergy's records, unveiling a pattern of accounting deceptions that reveal a company about to go under. There's less violence than usual in this Spenser novel but more detecting, which may explain why there's little of the PI's tough sidekick Hawk but much of his psychologist girlfriend Susan, which may not please the many Spenser fans who grew tired years ago of the love banter between the soul mates. The novel ends with suspects crowded into a room to be questioned by Spenser, a classic yet tired climax that is emblematic of the tale: Parker is treading water here, albeit with some flair and a good deal of humor. One suspects that his heart belongs not to this story but to his other book due out this year, in May, the highly anticipated Jackie Robinson novel Double Play. (Mar. 8) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Spenser tracks a straying husband who in turn has set an investigator on his wife's trail-a tangled mess that leads to corporate murder. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
God's gift to the Boston crime scene follows an errant husband into a world of corporate malfeasance. Convinced that her husband is straying on a nightly basis, starchy Marlene Rowley hires Spenser to get the goods on him. Hardly has the hired knight-errant begun his surveillance of Trent Rowley when he notices that somebody's following Marlene. And soon after satisfying himself that Trent has been dallying with Ellen Eisen, Spenser realizes that she's being followed as well. Why the sudden interest in the Rowleys' domestic entanglements? It's too late to ask Trent Rowley, because he's been shot to death by somebody who had no trouble breaching the security at Kinergy, the Enron-like energy-trading octopus where he toiled alongside his mistress and her husband. So Spenser settles for being a charming nuisance to the surviving suspects-though, as he aptly notes, his witticisms "mostly . . . amused myself"-hoping to shake loose some revelation that will link the Rowleys' swinging sex life to the spreading stain of corruption readers are learning to associate with energy-trading firms. Eventually he does, with a little help from his loyal sidekicks Hawk and Susan Richman, though it's never entirely clear just how he comes by his climactic brainwave. Parker thickens the plot with a master's patience, producing some satisfyingly unexpected twists, even though, in accord with his recent manner (Back Story, 2003, etc.), he's a lot less careful about wrapping it all up.

Product Details

Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date:
Spenser Series, #31
Edition description:
Unabridged 5 CD's, 6hrs
Product dimensions:
5.05(w) x 5.89(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

Do you do divorce work?" the woman said.

"I do," I said.

"Are you any good?"

"I am," I said.

"I don't want likelihood," she said. "Or guesswork. I need evidence that will stand up in court."

"That's not up to me," I said. "That's up to the evidence."

She sat quietly in my client chair and thought about that.

"You're telling me you won't manufacture it," she said.

"Yes," I said.

"You won't have to," she said. "The sonovabitch can't keep his dick in his pants for a full day."

"Must make dining out a little awkward," I said.

She ignored me. I was used to it. Mostly I amused myself.

"I always have trouble convincing people that any man would cheat on a woman like me. I mean, look at me."

"Unbelievable," I said.

"My attorneys tell me you are too expensive," she said. "But that you are probably worth it."

"The same could be remarked of Susan Silverman."

She frowned.

"Who the hell is Susan Silverman?" she said.

"Girl of my dreams."

She frowned again. Then she said, "Oh, I see. You're being cute."

"It's my nature," I said.

"Well, it's not mine," she said. "Do you want the job?"


"My attorneys will want a strict accounting of what you spend," she said.

"I'll bet they will," I said.

She was good-looking in kind of an old-fashioned way. Sort of womanly. Before personal trainers, and StairMasters. Like the women in Life Magazine when we were all much younger. Like she would look good in a small-waisted white polka-dot dress, and a huge straw hat with a white polka-dot band. In fact, of course, she was wearing a beige pantsuit and big pearls. Her reddish blond hair was long and thoroughly sprayed, and framed her face like the halo in a mediaeval religious painting. Her mouth was kind of thin and her eyes were small. I imagined cheating on her.

"I'm represented by Frampton and Keyes," she said. "Do you know the firm?"

"I don't."

"You'll do all further business through them. The managing partner is Randy Frampton."

"Why didn't you let them hire me," I said.

"I don't let other people make judgments for me. I wanted to look you in the eye."

I nodded.

"Do you have pictures of your husband?" I said. "Names of suspected paramours? Addresses? That sort of thing?"

"You can get all that from Randy."

"And a retainer?"

"Randy will take care of that as well."

"Good for Randy," I said. "Will he tell me your name, too?"

"I'd rather keep that confidential for now," she said. "This is a very sensitive situation."

I smiled.

"Ma'am," I said. "How long do you think it will take me to find out your name once I know who your husband is?"

"I . . ."

I smiled my sunny good-natured smile at her. I could melt polar ice caps with my sunny good-natured smile. She was no match for it.

"Marlene," she said. "Marlene Rowley. My husband is Trenton Rowley."

"How do you do," I said. "My name is Spenser."

"Of course I know your name," she said. "How do you think I got here?"

"I thought you looked up handsome in the phone book," I said. "And my picture was there."

She smiled for the first time that morning.

"Well," she said. "Maybe you are a little bit handsome in a rough sort of way."

"Tough," I said. "But sensitive."

"Perhaps," she said. "Will you speak with Randy?"

"Right away," I said.

--from Bad Business by Robert B. Parker, copyright © 2004 Robert B. Parker, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

Meet the Author

ROBERT B. PARKER is the author of more than forty books. He lives in Boston.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
September 17, 1932
Date of Death:
January 18, 2010
Place of Birth:
Springfield, Massachusetts
Place of Death:
Cambridge, Massachusetts
B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971

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3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Richard-Cory More than 1 year ago
I read this in two days, and I couldn't put it down. I love the way it is written in tiny chapters, and I find that it seems to mirror my own sort of writing style. It is probably one of my favorites and has you guessing until the very end. I was so fond of this book, that I have decided to try and read the whole series (36 books) in its entirety.
Guest More than 1 year ago
How does Parker do it? After thirty some Spenser's he still has the fresh dialogue and writing. He is always suspensful and has a few tricks up his sleeve. This is probably one of the best Spenser's, next to Chance.
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bravewarrior More than 1 year ago
Audio/Unabridged: I've seen Jesse Stone & Spenser for Hire on TV so I was interested when I saw this at the library sale. I really liked it. The plot and outcome were so-so, but the character development was wonderful. You get the whole dynamic of Spenser & Susan and Spenser & Hawk. Hawk, aka "Licorice Stick" is the best part. The relationship between the him and Spenser is enlightening and not condescending or politically correct like so many white writers. Parker hits the nail on the head with the banter between the two as two adults, one white and one black. It was very refreshing to hear that kind of friendship. Joe Mantegna does the narration, but I still picture Spencer as Robert Urich & Hawk as Avery Brooks from the old TV series. [I had just listened to another CD he read and I liked this one so much better]. Worth a listen.
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Mrstjl More than 1 year ago
Was a great read just like all the other Spenser novels in this series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book considering I am very picky. I love sarcasm and there was plenty in this book. He combines humor and mystery together and makes it a good read. You see a little into the main character's personal life. You meet all his friends that are also in books you have already read and ones you are going to read. Plus he keeps you on the edge waiting to find out who murdered who. Definitly not a book for young kids under the highschool level because of the amount and choice of bad words. But other than that a vary good book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm a fan of most of Parker's work ( not the female Spenser series, though ). This one was pretty boring. A few funny lines, but never really held my interest. At least the chapters were short so I didn't have to waste too much time reading it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like most Robert B. Parker fans, I love everything he writes, but prefer the Spencer novels,thus I was delighted that Bad Business featured private investigator, Spencer. Bad Business is an edge-of-the-seat unpredicable thrill. This one is a winner.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nobody has EVER written like Parker -- his Spenser series are THE best and you have to read one to really know what the rest of us are saying! I agree that this one was a little disjointed and harder to follow but the characters are, as always, timely and wonderful to a Parker fan!! Nobody can write dialog like him -- there just is no comparison. Maybe not his greatest book but still great!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Parker once again throws Spencer into the middle of another case with Hawk and Susan. Between the typical Parker dialogue and banter, Spenser is never at a loss for words (or trouble). And, The reader can find out if this is a case that private investigator Spenser actually gets paid for! This may not be one of Parkers best, but if you enjoy the Spenser series and see Parker for the 'Master' that he is, you won't be dispointed with 'Bad Business'
Guest More than 1 year ago
I received the book in the mail Tuesday about 11:00. Finished it before bedtime and it was a lot longer than Parker's usual offering. This one seemed a little disjointed to me but still enjoyable. I have read every Spenser novel. No one writes dialog like Parker. No one. Hawk is his usual self and I hope he never changes. I still think Susan is too good to be true; no body can exist just nibbling lettuce leaves, except maybe a rabbit.