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).
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Boston PI Sunny Randle, given her second outing here, is to Parker's veteran PI Spenser as Pepsi is to Coke: a bit lighter and sweeter, but still the real deal. And in the literary equivalent of a blind taste test, you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart; this second Sunny novel, even more than her first (Family Honor), is a Spenser book wearing a skirt. About now, the author's fans might be yearning for a change of pace of the sort Parker has offered in his stand-alones and his Jesse Stone series; still, what's here is quite good. The novel revolves around assorted couples' dysfunctional liaisons. In one significant subplot, Sunny's obnoxious and spoiled sister, Elizabeth, hires Sunny to trail her husband, whom she suspects of having an affair; when Sunny catches the lothario, Elizabeth leaves him and begins to sleep around. In another, Sunny's old therapist pal, Julie, is having troubles with her beloved and is also starting to date. And in the novel's main plotline, a lesbian activist who hires Sunny to protect her from a stalker also turns out to be stuck in a web of infidelity--and murder. Two killings--a man Sunny pinpoints as the stalker, and a woman who works for the activist--eventually bring Sunny into the orbit of scary black gangster Tony Marcus, who runs prostitution in Boston. The scenes involving Sunny, Marcus and Marcus's underlings crackle with tension and sometimes violence; the rest of the novel presents a wholly absorbing puzzle of confused motives and whodunits that Sunny picks at as doggedly as any PI going. With its smooth blend of mystery, action and psychological probings, this is yet another first-rate, though not innovative, offering from a reliable old master. 15-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Artist/shamus Sunny Randall's second case (Family Honor, 1999) might be called A Tale of Two Stalkers. The first is Lawrence B. Reeves, the part-time Boston U. philosophy prof who won't stop hassling Mary Lou Goddard, the grimly lesbian corporate consultant whose can-do public image would take a nose-dive if it were known that she was being stalked, especially by a former lover. The second is Sunny's own sister, Elizabeth Reagan, who's so angry at her unfaithful husband Hal that she can't stop following him. The second case is piffle, nothing more than an excuse for Sunny to show how much stronger she is than her intolerant, helpless big sister. But the first leads to three violent deaths-before you realize it's piffle, too: first, there's Mary Lou's research assistant Gretchen Crane, presumably killed in mistake for her; then Lawrence B. Reeves, whose apparent suicide conveniently allows the police to close the books on Gretchen; and Jermaine Lister, the rising pimp Gretchen had talked to in connection with her research on prostitution. Sunny identifies all the players early on, but never does figure out who's playing what role. Instead she gets men to do all the heavy lifting: her ex-husband's mobbed-up relatives threaten the key player into talking; the player solves the muddled case for her; and two male friends wait outside the showdown just in case.
From the Publisher
“Parker's narrative is so taut that bullets could bounce off it and sofast-paced it could compete in the 100-meters.”—The Orlando Sentinel
“Parker's most tightly plotted mystery in years.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Fans of Spenser will like Sunny Randall.”—San Francisco Examiner
“An entertaining, fast-paced read.”—The Chicago Tribune
Read an Excerpt
My sister Elizabeth came to see me.
Elizabeth is three years older than I am. We aren't close. We had spent too much of our childhood fighting over Daddy ever to be the kind of sisters that talk on the phone every day. To cement my conviction that Elizabeth was a pain, my dog, Rosie, didn't like her either. Since Rosie likes everyone, including armed intruders, it seemed clear that Elizabeth was special.
"What kind is she again?" Elizabeth said. "A Boston terrier?"
"Bull terrier," I said. "Rosie is a miniature bull terrier."
"I thought she was a Boston terrier."
"You want to see her papers," I said.
"Oh, aren't you funny," Elizabeth said.
We were having coffee at the counter in my kitchen without Rosie, who had left us and was on my bed at the other end of the loft, watching us carefully with one black eye.
"So what brings you to South Boston?" I said.
"Is this really South Boston?" Elizabeth said.
"The yuppie part," I said.
"Oh . . . this coffee is very good."
"Starbucks," I said.
"What is it?"
"Starbucks," I said. "This particular one is from Guatemala."
"Oh, write that down for me, will you?"
I wrote Starbucks Coffee on a piece of notepaper and gave it to her. She stuffed it into her purse. I waited. She sipped some coffee. I looked at Rosie. Rosie's tail stirred. But she didn't change her mind about staying on the bed.
"Do you ever see your ex-husband?" Elizabeth said.
"Richie and I see each other every Wednesday night."
"Do you do anything?"
"You know," Elizabeth said, "sex. It's all right to ask becauseI'm your big sister."
"Then I guess it's all right for me to say none of your business."
"Oh don't be so silly," Elizabeth said. "Do you date other men?"
"Elizabeth, what the hell are we talking about here?"
"For God's sake, I'm just asking if you have sex."
"None of your business. Do I ask you about your sex life?"
"Oh, me, I'm an old married woman."
"Elizabeth, you're thirty-eight," I said.
"You know what I mean," Elizabeth said. "I'm just interested in what life is like when you can't stay married."
I got up and walked down the length of my loft, breathing deeply and carefully. I bent down and gave Rosie a kiss on the nose, and breathed some more and walked slowly back.
"We who can't stay married prefer to keep our sex lives to ourselves," I said.
"Oh, Sunny, honestly you're so quaint sometimes."
"Quaint," I said.
The sun was almost straight up and it shone strongly through my skylight onto one of my paintings that stood unfinished on its easel.
"You're still painting," Elizabeth said.
"Does anyone ever buy one of your paintings?"
We sat quietly for a while. Elizabeth reached over and got the pot and poured herself some more coffee. She didn't replace the pot. Just set it down on the counter near her where it would grow cold. It took some will, but I didn't reach across and replace it. I didn't want any more anyway.
"How's Hal," I said.
She carefully poured some milk into her coffee and stirred in two sugars, and put the spoon down and sipped from the cup.
"I think he's cheating on me," Elizabeth said.
"Yes. I think so, and, isn't this funny, I want you to see if you can find out for sure."
"You are being a detective these days, aren't you?"
"Yes, of course, but . . ."
"I wouldn't want to hire some stranger," Elizabeth said.
"You want me to tail him? Get pictures? Catch him in the act? That sort of thing?"
"Why don't you just ask him?"
"Ask him? Don't be ridiculous. Why in God's name would he tell me?"
"Because you asked," I said.
"No. I'm not asking that bastard anything. I am going to catch him."
"You don't want to maybe talk about this with him, see about professional help?"
"A shrink? They're all crazy. It's why they became shrinks."
"Maybe not every one of them," I said.
"And most of them are Jews."
"Maybe not every one of them," I said.
"I don't want to discuss this anymore. Will you help me?"
"Of course. I was just trying to see if we could agree on the kind of help you needed."
"Well it's certainly not some crazy Jew," Elizabeth said.
I thought about going down and lying on the bed with Rosie. Arguing with Elizabeth was futile. She was, as my father used to say about our mother, often wrong, but never uncertain. And like our mother she simply dug in deeper when her convictions were questioned. If they were actually disproved, she was entrenched for life.
"I'll do whatever I can," I said.