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From Barnes & NobleOur Review
Parker's Other Boston PI Returns
Robert B. Parker continues his artistic resurgence with Perish Twice, a smart, stylish follow-up to last year's memorable Family Honor. Like its predecessor, Perish Twice features Parker's first female protagonist: feisty, introspective Sunny Randall. Sunny, like Spenser, is a Boston-based PI with a highly developed, constantly evolving ethical code. She is also tough, courageous, and funny, and remains one of Parker's most engaging creations to date.
This time out, Sunny finds herself enmeshed in the problematic lives of three troubled women. The first is her sister Elizabeth, a shallow, self-absorbed neurotic who loses her bearings when her husband leaves her for another woman. The second is her old friend Julie, a professional therapist struggling to cope with the painful dissolution of her own moribund marriage. The third is a client named Mary Lou Goddard, a feminist and self-professed lesbian who hires Sunny to protect her from an unidentified stalker. Mary Lou's dilemma, with its multilayered mysteries and attendant dangers, serves as the novel's central dramatic thread.
Sunny quickly identifies the stalker as Lawrence Reeves, a pathetic middle-aged misogynist. Shortly after Sunny's first confrontation with Reeves, Gretchen Crane, Mary Lou's assistant, is murdered, ostensibly because of her slight resemblance to Mary Lou. Shortly after that, Lawrence Reeves commits -- or appears to commit -- suicide, leaving an unambiguous confession behind. Satisfied, the Boston PD closes the file on Gretchen's murder, while Sunny, not at all satisfied, continues to investigate. Her investigation carries her from the bastions of radical feminism to the sleazy underworld of organized prostitution, gradually uncovering a sordid account of twisted relationships, sexual betrayal, and blind, murderous rage.
With consummate skill, Parker moves the complex narrative back and forth across three intersecting story lines. In the process, he takes us deeply into Sunny Randall's life, an austere, disciplined existence built around her love of art, her absolute dedication to her chosen profession, and her unresolved relationship with ex-husband Richie Burke, whose family, ironically, is a major force in the Irish-dominated Boston mob.
Like the best of Parker's earlier fiction, Perish Twice is an immensely readable book that works both as a fast-paced novel of suspense and as a cogent examination of the various ways people manage -- or fail to manage -- critical moments in their lives. In only two appearances, Sunny Randall has proven herself a worthy counterpart to Spenser. I wish her -- and this series -- a long and prosperous life.
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).