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Melancholy Baby (Sunny Randall Series #4)

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When Sunny Randall helps a young woman locate her birth parents, she uncovers the dark truth about her own past.

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When Sunny Randall helps a young woman locate her birth parents, she uncovers the dark truth about her own past.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Robert B. Parker never fails to deliver highly charged plots and engaging characters in all of his bestselling mystery series. This fourth novel featuring bright, beautiful Boston P.I. Sunny Randall is another complex, captivating conundrum.

Contentious college student Sarah Markham has hired Sunny to delve into her family background, a task that proves daunting for the feisty detective, who soon finds that facts about Sarah's parents are surprisingly difficult and dangerous to pin down. Meanwhile, Sunny's life is complicated by the fact that she's facing a genuine personal crisis of her own. As her ex-husband -- a man she loved but couldn't live with -- makes plans to remarry, she can no longer deny her disastrously mixed feelings about relationships. But, even as she decides to confront her own chaotic emotions through therapy and personal experimentation, the passionate P.I. puts her life on the line to answer troubled Sarah's questions about where and how family and identity intersect…and who is willing to kill to conceal the truth. Sue Stone

Publishers Weekly
The title refers to two characters: Boston college student Sarah Markham, convinced that her parents adopted her, and Boston PI Sunny Randall, hired by Sarah to certify her parentage. Sarah is melancholy because her parents refuse to take a DNA test to settle the issue and seem furtive; Sunny, because her ex-husband, Richie, has just remarried. In this excellent fourth Sunny Randall PI tale (after Shrink Rap), Sarah's sadness leads to murder, as Sunny's questioning of the parents results in one of their deaths at the hands of the person who would suffer most if the truth comes out. Sunny's own blues lead her to Dr. Susan Silverman and sessions on the couch that, however well observed, will have fans of Parker's PI Spenser who are terminally tired of Susan (Spenser's longtime girlfriend) gritting their teeth at her intrusion into another series. Still, Sunny's own regulars, particularly tough gay pal Spike, hold their own in the tale. There's little here that Parker hasn't done before, like his protagonist's side trip to New York and her tangling with venal lawyers and reptilian celebrities as well as Parker's sensitive exploration of the meaning of family and maturity and of the tension between self-reliance and love for another, but he does it so well here, with his impeccable prose and charismatic heroine, that fans will tremble with delight. Agent, Helen Brann. (Sept. 27) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Boston P.I. Sunny Randall is unhappy to learn that the ex-husband she still loves is getting married to someone else. Her life seemingly a mess, Sunny seeks the help of psychiatrist Susan Silverman. In between sessions that probe her relationship with her insufferable mother and beloved father, Sunny works on the case of Sarah Markham, a distraught 21-year-old woman who wants to track down her biological parents. The only trouble is that the couple who raised her claim she's theirs but refuse to take a DNA test to prove it. Sunny soon learns that Sarah's parents have lied about their past. The deeper she delves into their lives and her own mind, the more dangerous her situation becomes. But when things get too rough, she has her bull terrier Rosie to ground her and her gay friend Spike to defend her. In his fourth Sunny Randall novel (after Shrink Rap), Grand Master Parker, as always, leavens his story with sly wit while relying on dialog to advance the plot and develop character. Recommended for all popular fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/04.] Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425204214
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/4/2005
  • Series: Sunny Randall Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 250,286
  • Product dimensions: 4.34 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 0.85 (d)

Meet the Author

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


Robert B. Parker began as a student of hard-boiled crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, but when he became a crime writer himself, he was one of the rare contemporary authors to be considered on par with his predecessors. The Spenser series, featuring a Boston-based ex-boxer and ex-cop, is one of the genre's most respected and popular fixtures.

Noted for their sharp dialogue and fine character development, the Spenser books carry on a tradition while updating it, particularly in giving its hero two strong alter egos in Hawk, a black friend and right-hand man; and Susan Silverman, Spenser's psychologist love interest. Parker's inclusion of other races and sexual persuasions (several of his novels feature gay characters, a sensibility strengthened in Parker through his sons, both of whom are gay) give a more modern feel to the cases coming into Spenser's office.

The Spenser series, which began with 1973's The Godwulf Manuscript, has an element of toughness that suits its Boston milieu; but it delves just as often into the complex relationship between Silverman and Spenser, and the interplay between the P.I. and Hawk.

By the late ‘80s, Parker had acquired such a reputation that the agent for Raymond Chandler's estate tapped him to finish the legend's last book, Poodle Springs. It was a thankless mission bound to earn criticism, but Parker carried off the task well, thanks to his gift for to-the-point writing and deft plotting. "Parker isn't, even here, the writer Chandler was, but he's not a sentimentalist, and he darkens and deepens Marlowe," the Atlantic concluded. In 1991, Parker took a second crack at Chandler with the Big Sleep sequel Perchance to Dream.

Parker took other detours from Spenser over the years. In 1999, Family Honor introduced Sunny Randall, a female Boston private eye Parker created with actress Helen Hunt in mind. Two years earlier, he introduced L.A.-to-New England cop transplant Jesse Stone in Night Passage. He also authored four bestselling Westerns featuring Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch, a few young adult books, as well as several stand-alone novels that were well-received by his many fans.

Parker died suddenly in January 2010 while at home at his desk, working on a book. The cause was a heart attack. He was seventy-seven.

Good To Know

Parker's thesis in graduate school was a study of the private eye in literature that centered on Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Ross MacDonald. Critics would later put him in the same category as those authors.

Parker's main hero is named for Edmund Spenser, the 16th-century author of The Faerie Queene.

Parker had a hand in writing the scripts for some television adaptations of Spenser books starring Robert Urich, who also played Spenser in the ABC series from 1985-88. Urich suffered a battle with cancer and passed away in 2002, but adaptations continue to be made for A&E, starring Joe Mantegna. Parker approved of the new actor, telling the New York Times: ''I looked at Joe and I saw Spenser."

According to a profile in the New York Times, Parker met his wife Joan when the two were toddlers at a birthday party. The two reconnected as freshmen at Colby College and eventually had two sons. They credit the survival of their marriage to a house split into separate living spaces, so that the two can enjoy more independent lives than your average husband and wife.

Parker told fans in a 1999 Barnes & chat that he thought his non-series historical novel All Our Yesterdays was "the best thing I've ever written."

Parker had a small speaking part in the 1997 A&E adaptation of Small Vices. How does he have time to write his Spenser books, plus the other series and the adaptation stuff? "Keep in mind, it takes me four or five months to write a novel, which leaves me a lot of time the rest of the year," he told Book magazine. "I don't like to hang around."

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

Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Ransom Notes Interview with Robert B. Parker

Ransom Notes: One of the most obvious differences between your Sunny Randall books and your two other bestselling series is the fact that you're working with a female point-of-view character. Is there anything that you find particularly challenging about that?

Robert B. Parker: Sunny Randall was originally invented for Helen Hunt to play, so I had little choice about writing her with a female point-of-view. I am fortunate to be married to the best-looking, smartest, and toughest female person in the world, and that's been very useful to me in this series. Joan can offer easy corrections ("It's not called rouge anymore, Bob") and also keep me on track with more difficult things -- like what women think and feel when they look at men, how they feel when men look at them, etc. I'm not sure I would have undertaken Sunny if I hadn't had Joan available.

RN: Is there anything different about the types of cases you choose for Sunny to investigate, as opposed to those for her fellow P.I. Spenser and/or police officer Jesse Stone?

RBP: Not really, though Sunny is less likely to use direct muscle. Of course, we have her fierce friend Spike on tap for that.

RN: Is that why Sunny refers to both guns and Spike as "equalizers" and mentions that with guns matters are pretty much black-and-white, while people can be modulated -- that is, are more flexible?

RBP: Sunny recognizes that there are times when guns are decisive. But I think it is in keeping with her femaleness that she be interested in how best to achieve results through human interaction as well. I don't see such interest in human interaction as exclusive, among my characters, to Sunny, or even as exclusively a female trait. But it does certainly suit Sunny.

RN: Sunny has said she left the police in part so she could focus her efforts only on cases she cared about. How does that compare to the way she sees her artistic talents?

RBP: James Dickey once said that poetry allowed him to live life on his own terms. That is also Sunny's goal in both her work and art.

RN: Family issues are central in the case Sunny is working on in Melancholy Baby and in the elements that focus on her personal life (coming to terms with her feelings about her beloved ex-husband's marriage to another woman). What made you decide to explore both Sunny and her client Sarah's alienation from their families in Melancholy Baby?

RBP: I think each aspect of familial circumstances resonates with the other. I was aware of it and was hoping for that resonance.

RN: In several of your books you've had lawyers as bad guys -- bending and/or breaking the law. What do you think this element adds to your mysteries?

RBP: Some lawyers are better than others (Rita Flore, for instance). I figure if you write books about broken laws, you're going to need some lawyers who help break them.

RN: Can you tell us anything about your future writing plans?

RBP: I plan to publish a Spenser novel every spring, and alternate Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall each fall. There will also be a very good western novel out sometime next spring or summer [2005].

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 17 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2005

    Sunny Randall fluff

    This book has a very thin story line that made me skip over many fluff paragraphs to get back to the story. Disappointing. Mr. Parker is one of my favorites and I recommend he stick to the male detectives he writes so well about. This book had little humor, unlike his other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    fine Sunny Randall mystery

    Boston private detective Sunny Randall goes into an emotional tailspin when her ex-husband Richie tells her that he is getting remarried. Even though she divorced him she never stopped loving him. She just couldn¿t be married or live anyone else except her bullterrier Rosie. Unable to cope with the pain of Richie¿s remarriage, Sunny visits psychiatrist Dr. Susan Silverman. Although she doesn¿t know it, Susan is the girlfriend of the famous Spencer.---- Needing something to occupy herself, Sunny takes on the case of Sarah Markham, a twenty year old college student, who wants her to find out who her real parents are. When Sunny talks to the Markhams they insist that they are Sarah¿s real parents; Sunny catches the husband in a lie about where he worked when Sarah was conceived. Two thugs beat up Sarah, telling her to drop the investigation or else. The same musclemen come after Sunny who meets them with her gun and some backup. The information she gets from these two goons leads her to the people who hired them. By the time the case is finished, two men are dead, one person is going to prison, Sarah learns who her biological mother is and Sunny is beginning to understand her fears of marriage.---- Robert B. Parker¿s Sunny Randall series is not a female version of Spenser. She is a troubled woman who seeks help to regain her mental health as s she shows her emotions more than Spenser does and her methods of investigation are quite different as is her circle of friends. MELANCHOLY BABY is one of the author¿s best works with its stark prose, eccentric cast and a climax it is impossible not to love.---- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 8, 2013

    Highly Recommend

    Loved the book,I really enjoy these and hope that they continue.

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    It's a Robert B. Parker

    Don't stop here, read the whole series! If it's by Parker, you know it's going to be good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Not a Melancholy Read...

    Robert B. Parker's "Melancholy Baby" is a great read, although I did guess the ending about halfway through. Still, the chapters are short, the paragraphs are well-written and my attention was easily kept. <BR/><BR/>This was my first Robert B. Parker book, and I'm already happily onto the next. <BR/><BR/>J.R. Reardon <BR/>author, "Confidential Communications"

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2005

    Another winner from Robert B Parker

    The vocabulary and dialogue of MELANCHOLY BABY are a bit simple. However, the fast paced plot about a young woman searching for her biological parents and why someone is going to so much trouble to keep her from knowing will keep the reader engrossed until the end. Likeable, believable characters make the story enjoyable, a definite reccommendation for fans of mystery.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2005

    Parker is the Best

    Another great PI story from Robert Parker, that as usual, is far more than a PI story. Parker is obviously highly intelligent and very human, as are all of his principals, like Sunny Randall. A fine read about an interesting woman.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2005

    An Outstanding Mystery!

    Sunny Randall comes of age with the help of Susan Silverman of Spencer fame! An excellent 4th installment to the Randall series. Many twists in the story with an interesting out come. Parker is a superior writer with a sense of wit and character development like no other

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2004

    Top rate private eye tale with a heart

    A highly enjoyable read from a convincing and emotionally honest story teller. For me, in contemporary fiction, it's the female ``tough guys'' who have interesting things to say, and are the most fun to follow around through the pages.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2004

    as they say, a page turner

    I believe that this is one of the better ones. I couldn't get enough. The dark secrets that came up, made you want to read more.

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    Posted December 15, 2009

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    Posted January 19, 2010

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    Posted July 17, 2013

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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