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Hush Money (Spenser Series #26)

Hush Money (Spenser Series #26)

4.5 8
by Robert B. Parker

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Spenser has his hands full when he takes on two cases at once. In the first, a high-minded university might be hiding a killer within a swamp of political correctness. And in the other, Spenser comes to the aid of a stalking victim, only to find himself the unwilling object of the woman's dangerous affection.


Spenser has his hands full when he takes on two cases at once. In the first, a high-minded university might be hiding a killer within a swamp of political correctness. And in the other, Spenser comes to the aid of a stalking victim, only to find himself the unwilling object of the woman's dangerous affection.

Editorial Reviews

The 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?"

"Good-looking," I said..."Nice combo. Good-looking and easy."

Every time Parker publishes a new Spenser novel, you can bet that some reviewer somewhere will use the phrase "vintage Parker."

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

Laurie Davie
This is one of the best mystery series around—a classic for more than 20 years—and the adventures of Spenser, Hawk, and Susan continue to be fresh, funny, and intelligent. If you like fast action, gripping plots, and characters you’ll feel you’ve known for years, check out Spenser & company!
Romantic Times
Charles Winecoff
...[I]t's easy to see why Parker's snappy banter and cynical ey have kep fans turning pages for 25 years.
Entertainment Weekly
Marilyn Stasio
...[T]he story forces Spenser to take on the heroic task of examining his conscience for prejudicial attitudes...
The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite his quarter century on Boston's mean streets (he debuted in The Godwulf Manuscript in 1974), Parker's retrograde yet hip PI Spenser can still punch, sleuth and wisecrack with the best of them. This time out, Spenser looks into the case of Robinson Nevins, a conservative African-American professor denied tenure, perhaps for his alleged affair with a male student, Prentice Lamont, who has committed suicide. Spenser's hard-eyed stroll through the cloistered world of academia brings him into contact with Amir Abdullah, a black professor who is theatrically militant about African-American issues despite a long list of sexual conquests that includes the leader of a white supremacist organization. Sexual conquest is also on the mind of K.C. Roth, a pretty woman beset by insecurity and prey to a stalker. When Spenser and his sidekick, Hawk, persuade her sinister admirer to desist, K.C.'s fragile emotions lead her to fall hard for Spenser, and the stalked becomes the stalker. Naturally, Spenser's longtime lover, Susan, is less than amused. Readers who find the Spenser chronicles cute or contrived probably won't change their minds with this entry. Beyond dispute, however, is Parker's reliably gossamer narrative touch and, in this particular instance, his skilled brewing of suspense within the academic setting. Fans will also enjoy unexpected revelations about Hawk's background, Spenser's serving of justice with a vengeance and, as usual, prose that's as clean as a sea breeze.
Library Journal
Complicated doings in the latest Spenser novel: he's investigating a case of denied tenure, which seems to be tied to the suicide of a young gay, and when he aids a woman who is being stalked, she gets romantic ideas and starts stalking him.
Kirkus Reviews
To celebrate his 25th anniversary as Boston's preeminent private eye, Spenser takes two pro bono cases as favors to his nearest and dearest. To oblige his buddy Hawk, he agrees, much against his inclinations, to return to the groves of academe, the scene of his very first adventure, The Godwulf Manuscipt, in order to investigate Prof. Robinson Nevins' claim that he was denied tenure because of a conspiracy that included rumors Nevins vigorously denies of his relationship with Prentice Lamont, a gay graduate student who edited OUTrageous, a newsletter whose mission is to out higher-profile gays, until Lamont's suicide six months ago. At the same time, as a favor to his favorite shrink, Susan Silverman, Spenser looks into the claims of Susan's friend KC Roth that somebody-probably not her ex-husband Burton Roth, certainly, certainly not her ex-lover Louis Vincent-is stalking her. The Nevins case will bring Spenser up against Parker's favorite adversaries, the spineless bullies who spread fear and misiniformation from their faculty offices and an enterprising group of racists who campaign uncompromisingly against African Americans, gays, and anybody else who might adulterate the Aryan gene pool. But it's the Roth case, whose complainant is such a pathologically clinging vine that identifying her predator may be the least of Spenser's problems, that may pose the greatest dangers for its venerable hero. Not by any means a high point in the series (Sudden Mischief), but still a guaranteed return on your time and attention. . .

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Spenser Series , #26
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
934 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Outside my window a mixture of rain and snow was settling into slush on Berkeley Street. I was listening to a spring training game from Florida between the Sox and the Blue Jays. Joe Castiglione and Jerry Trupiano were calling the game and struggling bravely to read all the drop-ins the station had sold. They did as well as anyone could, but Red Barber and Mel Allen would have had trouble with the number of commercials these guys had to slip in. The leisurely pace of baseball had once been made for radio. It allowed the announcers to talk about baseball in perfect consonance with the rhythm of the game. We listened not only to hear what happened but because we liked the music of it. The sound of a late game from the coast, between two teams out of contention on a Sunday afternoon in August, driving home from the beach. The crowd noise was faint in the background, the voices of the play-by-play guys embroidering on a dull game. Now there was little time for baseball talk. There was barely time for play-by-play. And much of the music was gone. Still, it was the sound of spring, and it took some of the chill out of the slush storm.

    Just after the fifth inning started, Hawk came into my office with a smallish man in a short haircut, wearing a dark three-piece suit and a red and white polka dot bow tie. His skin was blue black and seemed tight on him. I turned the radio down, but not off.

    "Client," Hawk said.

    "Ever hopeful," I said.

    I recognized the small man. His name was Robinson Nevins. He was a professor at the university, the authorof at least a dozen books, a frequent guest on television shows, and a nationally known figure in what the press calls The Black Community. Time magazine had once referred to him as "the Lion of Academe."

    "I'm Robinson Nevins," he said and put his hand out. I leaned forward and shook it without getting up. "Hawk may be premature in calling me a client. We need to talk a bit first, among other things we ought to find out if we can get along."

    "Whose tab?" I said to Hawk.

    "Guarantee half everything I get," Hawk said.

    "That much," I said.

    "I can't afford very much," Nevins said.

    "Maybe we won't get along," I said.

    "I am dependent largely on a university salary and, as I'm sure you know, that is not a handsome sum."

    "Depends what sums you're used to," I said. "How about the books?"

    "The books are well received, and have influence I hope beyond their sales. Their sales are modest. I make some money on the lecture circuit, but far too often I speak because I feel the cause is just rather than the price is right."

    "Don't you hate when that happens," I said.

    Nevins smiled, but not as if he thought I was funny.

    "What would you like to pay me a modest amount to do?" I said.

    "I have been denied tenure," Nevins said.

    I stared at him.

    "Tenure?" I said.

    "Yes. Unjustly."

    "And you want me to look into that?" I said.


    "Tenure," I said.


    I was silent. Nevins didn't say anything else. I looked at Hawk.

    "You want me to do this?" I said to Hawk.


    I was silent again.

    "I understand your reaction," Nevins said. "I sound churlish to you. And you think that there are causes of greater urgency than whether I get tenure at the university."

    I pointed a finger at Nevins. "Bingo," I said.

    "I know, were I you that would be my reaction. But it is not simply that I am denied tenure and therefore will have to leave. I can find another job. What is at issue here is that I shouldn't have been denied tenure. I am more qualified than most members of the tenure committee. More qualified than many who have received tenure."

    "You think it's racial?" I said.

    "It would be an easy supposition and one most of us have made correctly in our lives," Nevins said. "But I am, in fact, not sure that it is."

    "What else?" I said.

    "I don't know. I am something of an anomaly for a black man at the university. I am relatively conservative."

    "What do you teach?"

    "American literature."

    "Black perspective?"

    "Well, my perspective. I include black writers, but I also include a number of dead white men."

    "Daring," I said.

    "Do you know that we are turning out English Ph.Ds who have never read Milton?"

    "I didn't know that," I said. "You think you were shot down for being insufficiently correct?"

    "Possibly," Nevins said. "I don't know. What I know is there was a smear campaign orchestrated by someone, which I believe cost me tenure."

    "You want me to find out who did the smearing?"


    I looked at Hawk again. He nodded.

    "Wouldn't an attorney be more likely to get you your tenure?"

    "I am not fighting this because I didn't get tenure. I'm fighting this because it's wrong."

    "If you got the tenure decision reversed, would you accept it?"

    Nevins smiled at the question.

    "You press a person, don't you," he said.

    "I like to know things," I said.

    "Like how sincere I am about fighting this because it's wrong."

    "That would be good to know," I said.

    "If I were offered tenure I would have to assess my options. But even if I accepted it, the process was still wrong."

    "What was the thrust of the smear campaign?"

    Hawk appeared to be listening to the faintly audible ball game. And he was. If asked, he could give you the score and recap the last inning. He would also be able to tell you everything I said or Nevins said and how we looked when we said it.

    "A young man, a graduate student, committed suicide this past semester. It was alleged to be the result of a sexual relationship with me."

    "What was his name?" I said.

    "Prentice Lamont."

    "Any truth to it?"


    I nodded.

    "I imagine you'd like that laid to rest as well."


    "Okay," I said.

    "Okay meaning you'll do it?"


    Nevins seemed mildly puzzled.

    "Like that?"


    "Aren't you going to ask if I'm gay?"


    "Why not?"

    "Don't care."

    "But," Nevins frowned, "it might be germane."

    "If it is, I'll ask," I said.

    Nevins opened his mouth and closed it and sat back in his chair. Then he took a green-covered checkbook out of his inside coat pocket.

    "What will you need for a retainer?"

    "No need for a retainer," I said.

    "Oh, but I insist. I don't want favors."

    Hawk was looking out the window at the slush accumulating around the stylishly booted ankles of the young women leaving the insurance companies on their way to lunch.

    Without turning around he said, "He doing me the favor, Robinson."

    Nevins was not slow. He looked once at Hawk, and back at me, and nodded to himself. He put the green checkbook back inside his coat and stood.

    "Do you need anything else right now?" he said.

    "No. I'll poke around at it, see what develops."

    "And I'll hear from you?"

    "Yes," I said.

    "Will you be involved, Hawk?"

    Hawk turned from the window and grinned at Nevins.

    "Sure," he said. "I'll help him with the hard stuff."

    Nevins put out his hand. "I appreciate your taking this," he said, "for whomever you're doing the favor."

    I shook it.

    "You need a ride anyplace?" he said to Hawk.

    Hawk shook his head. Nevins nodded as if to confirm something in his head, and turned and left. Hawk continued to look out the window. The ball game had moved quietly into the eighth inning. Outside my window it was mostly rain now. Hawk turned away from the window and looked at me without expression.

    "Tenure?" I said.

    Hawk smiled.

    "'Fraid so," he said.

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
B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971

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Hush Money 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Parker captures the politically correct agenda of the American university perfectly--the demonization of everything European, the 'advancement' of minority groups and opinions, homosexuality, feminism, and their desire to instill their students with those values. The mysteries of why an otherwise qualified professor was denied tenure and whether a young student jumped or was pushed from a window stand out on their own. I could not grasp the significance of the second mystery, that of the adulterous 'friend' of Susan Silverman and who is stalking her. This story was superfluous and left many questions unanswered...like how a psychiatrist like Susan could have considered such a neurotic, manipulative, backstabbing woman her 'friend'. Like another reviewer, I, too, would like to see less of Susan. I don't buy Spenser novels to read about his romantic life. However, this is otherwise a highly reccommended read as I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Spenser novels are always engrossing and entertaining. Through this enduring character, Parker continues to define and refine the private detective mystery genre. HUSH MONEY is as good as it gets.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Parker captures quite well the atmosphere of most academic departments -- all the suspicions, back biting, PC and such. His insights show he's been there, done that. Some of his asides -- e.g., about talking to zealots -- are superb. He cleverly balances anti- and pro-PC opinions! And the story is quite good, though not exceptional, too.
ThePolyBlog More than 1 year ago
PLOT OR PREMISE: Spenser has two cases, one from Hawk and one from Susan. Hawk wants him to help a black college professor who was refused tenure on the basis of rumours that he was gay, he had an illicit affair with a student, and the student committed suicide as a result of a broken heart. Susan wants him to help a friend who claims she is being stalked. . WHAT I LIKED: The plot surrounding the black college professor is a typical Spenser novel -- take a case for no pay, find there is something weird, start investigating, push some buttons, find out suspect number 1 is connected, and get a visit from some heavies. However, the handling of discrimination issues based on sexual orientation or colour of skin are well done, and that alone raises the story above a typical novel. Of course, the writing is first-rate, as Parker's work always is, and the story proceeds at a fast clip, with enough twists and turns to make it interesting. . WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: The second case involving Susan's friend is ridiculous. Susan is a first class shrink -- yet she apparently is surprised when she finds out that the friend has attached herself to Spenser as her white knight coming to save her, whether he wants to be rewarded or not. Not well handled by Spenser's character or Susan, and doesn't fit either's characters background in previous novels, and just rings false with each development. Mind you, the resolution of the problem by Susan is first-rate. It just takes a long time to get there. . BOTTOM-LINE: First rate solid story . DISCLOSURE: I received no compensation, not even a free copy, in exchange for this review. I was not personal friends with the author, nor did I follow him on social media.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
I really wish Parker would use Susan much less. I am not fond of the constant sex between Susan & Spencer. Then I guess I don't have to buy them if I don't like them. I do like the Spencer books except for that. The characters are good, the wise cracks are great. Spencer takes two cases at once. One for Hawk and one for Susan. Susan's friend is being stalked and Spencer is asked to find out who and get it stopped. He does but then the friend ends up being in love with Spencer, or at least she thinks she is. Susan finally takes care of her. Hawk has a friend who does not get tenure at the school where he teaches because the tenure committee is told that a young man committed suicide because of a sexual relationship with the teacher. Spencer and Hawk get to use fist and guns to get this solved. The two cases going on at the same time are a little confusing for a single mind like mine. If you have read Spencer in the past and like him I guess you will like this one too.