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

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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: 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.

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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

Chicago Tribune
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.

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Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Spenser Series, #27
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.40(w) x 7.58(h) x 0.93(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?"


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


    "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.


    "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."


    "Someone is shooting them."


    "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.


    "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.


    "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?"


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

    "I'll win him over," I said.


    "Northern charm," I said.

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

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

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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

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