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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
When all else fails Robert Parker, he's got great dialogue to fall back on. In fact, he creates character as much through dialogue as he does through physical description and action. His latest Spenser novel is no exception, with masterly bits of talk on virtually every page.
"Well, you've talked to the lady," O'Connor said. "What's your impression?"Every time Parker publishes a new Spenser novel, you can bet that some reviewer somewhere will use the phrase "vintage Parker."
"Good-looking," I said..."Nice combo. Good-looking and easy."
I don't know how vintage Hush Money is, but it's a hell of a lot of fun. Parker has always had a good time skewering the antics of various social institutions, and his wit has never been sharper than it is here.
A black professor is denied tenure at a college, and Hawk, who knew the professor's father, convinces Spenser to find out why. There are certain extenuating circumstances that require a private investigator: A young male student has committed suicide, and there is a rumor that he was having an affair with the professor. That is the main story line of Hush Money, though Parker also gives us some scenes with another great character, a relentlessly sexy and self-dramatizing woman who believes her ex-husband is stalking her. You'll recognize her right away: You've met her at innumerable parties and probably had the misfortune of falling in love with her on more than a few occasions. Parker really nails her (and I don't mean in the biblical sense).
Parker is wise and clever enough to give everygroupinvolved — blacks, straights, gays, feminists, and most especially, academics — all kinds of hell. My favorite character in the novel (and one of my favorite Parker characters of all time) is the middle-class black professor who is trying hard to speak and think like a homeboy.
"I irritated a number of people recently when I told an interviewer that I hate all groups, including those I belong to. I was being quite sincere. You take nice, decent, clear-thinking people — white, black, straight, gay, skinny, fat, Christian, atheist — and put them in groups, and they turn into zealots and fanatics. They toe the group line. It's never enough that you agree with some or even most of the things they espouse; you must believe all they espouse or you instantly become the enemy."And that's what this book — kind of a mystery version of The Bonfire of the Vanities — is both hilariously and sadly about: how we've become a nation of knee-jerk groups instead of a nation of thoughtful individuals. And that's true of right wing and left wing alike.
I had a great time with this book, and you will, too. And yeah, now that I think about it, it is vintage Parker.
— Ed Gorman