Hugger Mugger (Spenser Series #27)

Hugger Mugger (Spenser Series #27)

3.7 25
by Robert B. Parker
     
 

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"It's easy to see why Parker's snappy banter and cynical eye have kept fans turning pages for 25 years . . . his wisecracks, combined with Parker's shorthand flair for scathing characterization, make for a satisfying read," said Entertainment Weekly of last year's Hush Money. Now Parker presents Spenser with a deceptively dangerous and multi-layered case

Overview

"It's easy to see why Parker's snappy banter and cynical eye have kept fans turning pages for 25 years . . . his wisecracks, combined with Parker's shorthand flair for scathing characterization, make for a satisfying read," said Entertainment Weekly of last year's Hush Money. Now Parker presents Spenser with a deceptively dangerous and multi-layered case: Someone has been killing racehorses at stables across the south, and the Boston P.I. travels to Georgia to protect the two-year-old destined to become the next Secretariat.

When Spenser is approached by Walter Clive, president of Three Fillies Stables, to find out who is threatening his horse Hugger Mugger, he can hardly say no: He's been doing pro bono work for so long his cupboards are just about bare. Disregarding the resentment of the local Georgia law enforcement, Spenser takes the case. Though Clive has hired a separate security firm, he wants someone with Spenser's experience to supervise the operation.

Despite a veneer of civility, Spenser encounters tensions beneath the surface southern gentility. The case takes an even more deadly turn when the attacker claims a human victim, and Spenser must revise his impressions of the whole Three Fillies organization--and watch his own back as well.

With razor-sharp dialogue, eloquently spare prose, and some of the best supporting characters to grace the printed page, Hugger Mugger is grand entertainment.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brisk..crackling...HuggerMugger finishes strong, just like a thoroughbred should." —Entertainment Weekly

"A winner...The famous dialogue is polished to a high shine...Terrific." —Kirkus Reviews

bn.com
The Barnes & Noble Review
Over the course of his 25-year career, Robert B. Parker's fiction has run the gamut from the excellent (Promised Land, God Save the Child, Early Autumn) to the uninspired (Pastime, Crimson Joy, All Our Yesterdays). Fortunately for all of us, Parker appears to have regained his stride over the last couple of years. Just a few months ago, he published the genuinely excellent Family Honor, the first entry in a new series featuring female private investigator Sunny Randall. As though energized by that experience, Parker now returns to the main line of his career with Hugger Mugger, the 27th Spenser adventure and one of the more consistently effective installments in the series.

As Hugger Mugger opens, Spenser is hired by wealthy Georgia-based racehorse baron Walter Clive to investigate a most unusual crime. Clive is the owner of Three Fillies Stables, and he has a serious problem. Over the preceding month, several of Clive's less valuable horses have been shot, one of them fatally. Following an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Hugger Mugger -- a world-class racehorse whom many consider a potential Triple Crown winner -- Clive decides that his in-house security force is overmatched, and he brings in Spenser to conduct his own independent investigation.

Leaving Boston -- and his psychiatrist girlfriend, Susan Silverman -- briefly behind, Spenser travels to Lamarr, Georgia, the scene of the crimes. Once there, he proceeds to investigate in his own, time-honored fashion: asking endless questions, stirring up trouble, turning over every rock in sight. Initially, he discovers very little about the shootings themselves but learns a great deal about the many problems -- sexual, domestic, and alcoholic -- of the colorfully dysfunctional Clives, a family that seems to have stepped from the pages of a Tennessee Williams play.

Within days of Spenser's arrival in Georgia, an event occurs that fundamentally alters the nature of the case. Walter Clive is murdered: shot, presumably, by the man or woman responsible for the earlier attacks on the horses. In the aftermath of that murder, Spenser -- his client dead, his investigation irrevocably stalled -- is summarily dismissed. He returns to Boston in a melancholy frame of mind, leaving a substantial piece of unfinished business behind.

Months later, with the case still open and the murder still unsolved, Spenser is granted an unexpected second chance to resume his investigation. Dolly Hartman -- longtime mistress of Walter Clive -- now claims Walter was the father of her 25-year-old son, Jason, and that Walter, convinced of the validity of this claim, had begun making plans to revise his will in Jason's favor. Dolly hires Spenser to protect her son's interests, and Spenser, with characteristic stubbornness, uses this new information to drive a wedge into the corrupt and secretive Clive family. Eventually, with the help of an honest Georgia cop named Dalton Becker and a gay, muscle-bound ex-cop named Tedy Sapps, Spenser uncovers the sordid truth behind Walter Clive's murder. In the ironic, open-ended conclusion to the novel, closure, of a sort, is finally achieved, and justice is imperfectly served.

In Hugger Mugger, as in most of Parker's novels, style, rather than story, carries the day. Parker's plots tend to be rambling, deliberately discursive affairs that reflect Spenser's own tendency to meander, instinctively, from question to question and encounter to encounter, until coherent solutions and rational conclusions gradually emerge. This casual approach to plotting, which might not work as well in a lesser writer's hands, is enriched immeasurably by Parker's unobtrusive mastery of language, his native humor, and his knowing, impeccably crafted narrative voice. That clean, deceptively effortless style is one of the consistent -- and enduring -- pleasures of Parker's fiction, and it rarely, if ever, falters.

If there is a single dominant irritant throughout this novel, it is Spenser's endless mooning over the many splendors -- sexual and otherwise -- of his Harvard-educated girlfriend, Susan Silverman. Spenser's obsessive monogamy has become one of the running themes of this series, and it does, on occasion, get a little wearisome. Outside of that, though, Parker is in excellent form in this one, and his characteristic virtues are on full display. Hugger Mugger is a fast, funny, thoroughly enjoyable addition to a distinguished body of work and offers further evidence of Parker's mastery of this peculiarly American form. (Bill Sheehan)

bn.com Review
Over the course of his 25-year career, Robert B. Parker's fiction has run the gamut from the excellent (Promised Land, God Save the Child, Early Autumn) to the uninspired (Pastime, Crimson Joy, All Our Yesterdays). Fortunately for all of us, Parker appears to have regained his stride over the last couple of years. Just a few months ago, he published the genuinely excellent Family Honor, the first entry in a new series featuring female private investigator Sunny Randall. As though energized by that experience, Parker now returns to the main line of his career with Hugger Mugger, the 27th Spenser adventure and one of the more consistently effective installments in the series.

As Hugger Mugger opens, Spenser is hired by wealthy Georgia-based racehorse baron Walter Clive to investigate a most unusual crime. Clive is the owner of Three Fillies Stables, and he has a serious problem. Over the preceding month, several of Clive's less valuable horses have been shot, one of them fatally. Following an unsuccessful attempt on the life of Hugger Mugger -- a world-class racehorse whom many consider a potential Triple Crown winner -- Clive decides that his in-house security force is overmatched, and he brings in Spenser to conduct his own independent investigation.

Leaving Boston -- and his psychiatrist girlfriend, Susan Silverman -- briefly behind, Spenser travels to Lamarr, Georgia, the scene of the crimes. Once there, he proceeds to investigate in his own, time-honored fashion: asking endless questions, stirring up trouble, turning over every rock in sight. Initially, he discovers very little about the shootings themselves but learns a great deal about the many problems -- sexual, domestic, and alcoholic -- of the colorfully dysfunctional Clives, a family that seems to have stepped from the pages of a Tennessee Williams play.

Within days of Spenser's arrival in Georgia, an event occurs that fundamentally alters the nature of the case. Walter Clive is murdered: shot, presumably, by the man or woman responsible for the earlier attacks on the horses. In the aftermath of that murder, Spenser -- his client dead, his investigation irrevocably stalled -- is summarily dismissed. He returns to Boston in a melancholy frame of mind, leaving a substantial piece of unfinished business behind.

Months later, with the case still open and the murder still unsolved, Spenser is granted an unexpected second chance to resume his investigation. Dolly Hartman -- longtime mistress of Walter Clive -- now claims Walter was the father of her 25-year-old son, Jason, and that Walter, convinced of the validity of this claim, had begun making plans to revise his will in Jason's favor. Dolly hires Spenser to protect her son's interests, and Spenser, with characteristic stubbornness, uses this new information to drive a wedge into the corrupt and secretive Clive family. Eventually, with the help of an honest Georgia cop named Dalton Becker and a gay, muscle-bound ex-cop named Tedy Sapps, Spenser uncovers the sordid truth behind Walter Clive's murder. In the ironic, open-ended conclusion to the novel, closure, of a sort, is finally achieved, and justice is imperfectly served.

In Hugger Mugger, as in most of Parker's novels, style, rather than story, carries the day. Parker's plots tend to be rambling, deliberately discursive affairs that reflect Spenser's own tendency to meander, instinctively, from question to question and encounter to encounter, until coherent solutions and rational conclusions gradually emerge. This casual approach to plotting, which might not work as well in a lesser writer's hands, is enriched immeasurably by Parker's unobtrusive mastery of language, his native humor, and his knowing, impeccably crafted narrative voice. That clean, deceptively effortless style is one of the consistent -- and enduring -- pleasures of Parker's fiction, and it rarely, if ever, falters.

If there is a single dominant irritant throughout this novel, it is Spenser's endless mooning over the many splendors -- sexual and otherwise -- of his Harvard-educated girlfriend, Susan Silverman. Spenser's obsessive monogamy has become one of the running themes of this series, and it does, on occasion, get a little wearisome. Outside of that, though, Parker is in excellent form in this one, and his characteristic virtues are on full display. Hugger Mugger is a fast, funny, thoroughly enjoyable addition to a distinguished body of work and offers further evidence of Parker's mastery of this peculiarly American form.

--Bill Sheehan

Chicago Tribune
Snappy.
Entertainment Weekly
Brisk...crackling...Hugger Mugger finishes strong, just like a thoroughbred should.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite frequent appearances by Susan Silverman (longtime love of Boston PI Spenser) and the absence of Hawk (his enigmatic sidekick), the latest entry in Parker's estimable series is a worthy one. Missing is the sap that can stickie-up scenes between Spenser and Susan, and in Hawk's place strides a new sidekick, Tedy Sapp, who's gay and as tough as they come. Tedy's only a temp replacement, though, because the reason he's here and Hawk's not is that most of the action takes place in rural Georgia, where Tedy owns a gay bar. Spenser travels there on his own temp job--to find out who's been shooting horses at Three Fillies Stables, owned by Walter Clive, the most powerful man in the county, and to keep that someone from shooting Clive's prize thoroughbred, Hugger Mugger. Spenser roots through the highly dysfunctional family of Clive's three daughters and their husbands (one a pedophile, one a drunk), annoys Clive's security men and befriends both Tedy and the local sheriff, with whom the PI discusses doughnuts. When Clive is shot dead, Spenser is fired by the alpha daughter, only to be rehired by Clive's mistress, who believes there's more to the mayhem than horseplay. This novel offers more traditional mystery elements than many Spenser tales, although most readers will finger the prime villain way before Spenser does. The pacing is strong, the characters are fresh as dew and the prose is Parker-perfect. The Spenser-specific personal drama that drives the best of the tales is lacking, but overall, the story will fit Parker fans like an old shoe. (Apr.) FYI: Parker's most recent novel, Family Honor, will be filmed starring Helen Hunt. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Someone is hurting horses at Three Fillies Stables. Walter Clive, the president, has called in macho, wise-cracking Spenser to solve the mystery, for he fears that Hugger Mugger, a horse he believes to be the next Secretariat, may be added to the victim list. When a human is murdered, Spenser is fired, which only whets his appetite for solving the case. Fans of Parker (Family Honor), best-selling author of more than 33 books, will certainly want to hear this tape. Joe Mantegna, a Tony Award winner, does a fine job of portraying the fearless yet politically correct Spenser. Other characters are represented equally well. Recommended for all public libraries.--Patsy E. Gray, Huntsville P.L., AL Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Rob Stout
Someone is taking potshots at the racehorses owned by Southern gentleman Walter Clive in Parker's latest Spenser mystery. Clive fears for the health of his million-dollar filly, Hugger Mugger, and heads north to seek help from Boston-based Spenser. Though this moves along at a fast and entertaining clip, Spenser's sidekick, Hawk, vacationing in France, is sorely missed. Mantegna, who has played Spenser in a couple of made-for-TV movies, never seemed a natural choice for this urban New England private eye. He effectively captures Spenser's sarcastic humor and grounded confidence; however, he makes no attempt at a Boston accent and should have left the land of Dixie out of his performance.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780425179550
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/12/2001
Series:
Spenser Series, #27
Edition description:
Reissue
Pages:
352
Sales rank:
161,724
Product dimensions:
4.30(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


I was at my desk, in my office, with my feet up on the windowsill, and a yellow pad in my lap, thinking about baseball. It's what I always think about when I'm not thinking about sex. Susan says that supreme happiness for me would probably involve having sex while watching a ball game. Since she knows this, I've never understood why, when we're at Fenway Park, she remains so prudish.

    My focus this morning was on one of those "100 greatest" lists that the current millennium had spawned. In the absence of a 100 greatest sexual encounters list (where I was sure I would figure prominently), I was vetting the 100 greatest baseball players list and comparing it to my own. Mine was of more narrow compass, being limited to players I'd seen. But even so, the official list needed help. I was penciling in Roy Campanella ahead of Johnny Bench, when my door opened and a man and woman came in. The woman was great to look at, blond, tight figure, nice clothes. The man was wearing aviator sunglasses. He looked like he might have a view on Roy Campanella, but I was pretty sure she wouldn't. On the other hand, she might have a view on sexual encounters. I could go either way.

    "Good morning," I said, to let them know there were no hard feelings about them interrupting me.

    "Spenser?" the man said.

    "That's me," I said.

    "I'm Walter Clive," he said. "This is my daughter Penny."

    "Sit down," I said. "I have coffee made."

    "That would be nice."

    I went to the Mr. Coffee onthe filing cabinet and poured us some coffee, took milk and sugar instructions, and passed the coffee around.

    When we were settled in with our coffee, Clive said, "Do you follow horse racing, sir?"

    "No."

    "Have you ever heard of a horse named Hugger Mugger?"

    "No."

    "He's still a baby," Clive said, "but there are people who will tell you that he's going to be the next Secretariat."

    "I've heard of Secretariat," I said.

    "Good."

    "I was at Claiborne Farms once and actually met Secretariat," I said. "He gave a large lap."

    He smiled a pained smile. Horse people, I have noticed, are not inclined to think of horses in terms of how, or even if, they kiss.

    "That's fine," he said.

    Penny sat straight in her chair, her hands folded in her lap, her knees together, her ankles together, her feet firmly on the floor. She was wearing white gloves and a set of pearls, and a dark blue dress that didn't cover her knees. I was glad that it didn't.

    "I own Three Fillies Stables. Named after my three daughters. We're in Lamarr, Georgia."

    "Racehorses," I said.

    "Yes, sir. I don't breed them, I buy and syndicate."

    Penny was wearing shoes that matched her dress. They were conservative heels, but not unfashionable. Her ankles were great.

    "In the past month," Clive said, "there has been a series of attacks on our horses."

    "Attacks?"

    "Someone is shooting them."

    "Dead?"

    "Some die, some survive."

    "Do we have a theory?" I said.

    "No, sir. The attacks seem entirely random and without motivation."

    "Insurance scam?"

    "Nothing so crude as shooting the horse," Clive said.

    He was tall and athletic and ridiculously handsome. He had a lot of white teeth and a dark tan. His silver hair was thick and smooth. He was wearing a navy blazer with a Three Fillies crest on it, an open white shirt, beige linen trousers, and burgundy loafers with no socks. I approved. I was a no-socks man myself.

    "Eliminate the competition?"

    Clive smiled indulgently.

    "Some of the horses who've been shot are barn ponies, not even Thoroughbreds—to think you could do anything constructive for your own horse, by eliminating other horses ... not possible."

    "Only a dumb city guy would even think of such a thing," I said.

    He smiled again. It was a smile that said, Of course I'm superior to you, and both of us know it, but I'm a good guy and am not going to hold it against you.

    "You're a detective, you have to ask these questions," he said kindly.

    He smiled again. Penny smiled. I smiled back. Weren't we all just dandy. Penny had big eyes, the color of morning glories. Her eyes were nearly as big as Susan's, with thick lashes. Her smile was not superior. It was friendly ... and maybe a little more.

    "Last week, someone made an attempt on Hugger Mugger," Clive went on.

    "Unsuccessful?"

    "Yes. His groom, Billy Rice, was in the stall with him, at night. Hugger had been sort of peckish that day and Billy was worried about him. While he was there someone opened the stall door. Billy shined his flashlight, and saw a rifle barrel poking through the open door. When the light came on, the rifle barrel disappeared and there were running footsteps. By the time Billy peeked out around the door, there was nothing."

    "Footprints?" I said.

    "No."

    "Could he describe the gun barrel?"

    "The gun barrel? What's to describe?"

    "Did it have a magazine under the barrel, like a Winchester? Long stock or not? Front sight? Gun barrels are not all the same."

    "Oh God," Clive said, "I don't know."

    I tried not to smile a smile that said, Of course I'm superior to you, and both of us know it, but I'm a good guy and am not going to hold it against you.

    "Cops?" I said.

    "Local police," Clive said. "And I have my own security consultant."

    "Local police are the Columbia County Sheriff's Department," Penny said. "The deputy's name is Becker."

    "I wish to hire you, sir, to put a stop to this," Clive said.

    "To prevent the horse from being hurt?"

    "That certainly."

    "Usually I get only one end of the horse," I said.

    Penny laughed.

    Clive said, "Excuse me?"

    "Daddy," Penny said, "he's saying sometimes he gets a client who's a horse's ass."

    "Oh, of course. Guess I'm too worried to have a sense of humor."

    "Sure," I said.

    "Well, sir, are you interested or not?"

    "Tell me a little more of how you see this working," I said. "Am I sleeping on a blanket in the horse's stall, with a knife in my teeth?"

    He smiled to show that he really did have a sense of humor even though he was worried.

    "No, no," he said. "I have some armed security in place. An agency in Atlanta. I would like you to look at the security and let me know what you think. But, primarily, I want you to find out who is doing this and, ah, arrest them, or shoot them, or whatever is the fight thing."

    "And what makes you think I'm the man for the job?" I said.

    Penny smiled at me again. She thought my modesty was very becoming.

    "The horse world is a small one, sir. You were involved in some sort of case over there in Alton a few years back, with Jumper Jack Nelson. I knew of it. I talked with the Alton Police, with someone in the South Carolina State Attorney's Office. My attorney looked into it. We talked with the FBI in Atlanta. We talked with a man named Hugh Dixon with whom I once did some business. We talked to a Massachusetts State Police captain named Healy, and a Boston police captain named Quirk."

    "How the hell did you find Hugh Dixon?" I said.

    "I have money, sir. My attorneys are resourceful."

    "And I'm the man?"

    "Yes, sir, you are."

    "Fairly expensive," I said.

    "What are your fees?" Clive said.

    I told him.

    "That will not be an issue," he said.

    "And who is the outfit in Atlanta that's on the job now?" I said.

    "Security South."

    Meant nothing to me.

    "The on-site supervisor is a man named Delroy. Jon Delroy."

    That meant nothing to me either.

    "Will Mr. Delroy be pleased to see me?"

    "He'll cooperate," Clive said.

    "No," Penny said. "I don't think he will be pleased to see you."

    Clive looked at her.

    "Well, it's the truth, Daddy. He will be absolutely goddamned livid."

    Clive smiled. He couldn't help being condescending, but it was a genuine smile. He liked his daughter.

    "Penny has been quiet during our interview, Mr. Spenser. But don't assume that it's habitual."

    "Jon will have trouble with you bringing in someone over him," Penny said. "Mr. Spenser may as well know that now."

    Clive nodded.

    "He's not really 'over' Jon," Clive said. "But Jon may feel a bit compromised. That a problem to you, Mr. Spenser?"

    "No."

    "Really?" Penny said. "You think you can work with someone like that?"

    "I'll win him over," I said.

    "How?"

    "Northern charm," I said.

    "Isn't that an oxymoron?" she said.

    "You're right," I said. "Maybe I'll just threaten him."

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Brisk..crackling...HuggerMugger finishes strong, just like a thoroughbred should." —Entertainment Weekly

"A winner...The famous dialogue is polished to a high shine...Terrific." —Kirkus Reviews

Meet the Author

Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books. He died in January 2010.

Brief Biography

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

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Hugger Mugger (Spenser Series #27) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After a few chapters of this latest Spencer novel, I realized why I stopped reading this series years ago. Doesn't anyone else find the constantly clever repartee tiresome after awhile? The lead characters always seem to have snappy comebacks for each other - does anyone ever hold a normal conversation? Thank heavens we were spared the presence of Hawk and his relentlessly adorable dialogue with Spenser this time around. There is no doubt that Mr. Parker writes with great wit and his plots are fun, but the dialogue really gets old after awhile. His returning characters are likeable, but any woman reading this book will probably dislike Susan - clearly Mr. Parker's ideal woman - she eats teensy-weensy portions, is about a size 2, and exercises rigorously. Frankly, I've always thought she had anorexia issues. And of course the woman is never without a terribly clever remark. Eeek! Think I'll stay away from his books indefinitely this time around.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have come to expect a lot from Robert Parker and he never disappoints me. I look foward to seeing all the familiar characters. I missed the participation of Hawk in this one. I'll just have to wait for the next one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
1: have fun <p> 2: no s<cr>ex <p> 3: have more fun
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I LISTENED TO THIS AS A BOOK ON TAPE AND FOUND IT VERY ENJOYABLE. THE BEST PART IS JOE MANTEGNA WITH HIS DROLL WAY OF TALKING AND HIS GREAT SOUTHERN ACCENTS. HE WAS THE PERFECT PERSON TO READ THIS STORY.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have been a fan of Spenser for years, having seen ALL of the episodes of the TV series and having read many of the books. I thought Hugger Mugger was good reading but it fell flat at the end. Moreover, the solution was far too predictable.I am not that good at working out 'whodunnit' in the Spenser novels and this one was telegraphed from about the middle. And I missed Hawk, Spenser's 'deus ex machina.' There is no reason not to have had Hawk in this novel (other than to dismiss him as 'on vacation in France'). This is one of the most recent Spenser novels. I hope it is not indicative of where Parker is going with them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Parker may be getting bored with his character. Spenser kind of walked through this one. The new characters didn't really do anything. Parker needs to do something fresh with Spenser, Susan and Hawk. It's time to shake this series up and make it exciting again. His fans may be stuck with Sunny as Parker's only character that's enjoyable. I don't want that to happen. Spenser needs saving!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not Parker's best work but not his worsed. We figured out the who did it way to soon and the ending seemed anticlimatic. We have read every Parker novel this was in the middle of the pack.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i enjoy the book listen to it while i work the book is very interest i enjoy mystery story this one kept me interest to the end very good book