“This is the perfect holiday treat for crime readers needing another Spenser fix”
“Brann does a seamless job…Diehard Parker fans will be delighted.”
Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel (Spenser Series #42)by Robert B. Parker, Helen Brann
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It’s a white Christmas in Boston and Spenser and Susan are looking toward all the joys of the holiday. But the mood turns dark when a young boy named Slide contacts Spenser. Street-tough and world-weary, the eleven-year-old convinces Spenser to meet with Jackie Alvarez, who runs a shelter for homeless youth—one under inexplicable threats by persons unknown. Jackie and Slide need Spenser’s help to stop the intimidation before it escalates into something much worse.
But when the source of the threats is revealed to be even more sinister than first imagined, Spenser must find a way to protect Slide and the other lost boys for whom the shelter is the last chance for a better life.
“This is the perfect holiday treat for crime readers needing another Spenser fix”
Brann, the longtime agent of Robert B. Parker (1932–2010), does a seamless job of completing the unfinished manuscript of what’s billed as a Spenser holiday novel. The Boston PI gets a visit from an 11-year-old street kid, Slide, who asks that Spenser help out Jackie Alvarez, the director of an unlicensed shelter, Street Business, funded by Jackie’s affluent brother, Juan. Jackie, who’s been receiving threats, fears that someone is trying to close him down. Spenser takes the case, of course, enlisting his longtime muscle, Hawk, to watch his back while he gets into the requisite number of violent confrontations on the way to achieving justice. Love interest Susan Silverman lends support. As in Parker’s later books in the series and Ace Atkins’s pastiches, the storyline and characterizations offer more of the same with few surprises, but diehard Parker fans will be delighted. Agent: Helen Brann, Helen Brann Agency. (Oct.)
Parker's longtime literary agent, Brann, completed this novel that was left unfinished when Parker died in 2010. It's December in Boston, and Spenser is working in his office when he's visited by a young homeless boy named Slide, who relays a message that Jackie Alvarez wants to meet with him. Jackie runs Street Business, an organization that houses and tries to find jobs for homeless boys. The Street Business kids are being threatened, and Jackie wants Spenser to help get to the bottom of it. Spenser, with some help from his buddy Hawk, soon realizes that the threat is much more dangerous than he expected. With the stakes suddenly higher than ever and Christmas just days away, Spenser prepares for a showdown. VERDICT This is the perfect holiday treat for crime readers needing another Spenser fix. [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13.]
Just what you've been waiting for: Spenser and his circle celebrate Christmas by asking some questions, doing some good deeds and shooting down some bad guys. Resurrected this time by Parker's agent and literary executor Brann, the Boston shamus (Robert B. Parker's Wonderland, 2013, etc.) is pulled back into the ring by Jackie Alvarez, who runs the unlicensed shelter Street Business, and Slide, one of the kids ("eleven going on thirty") he's taken in. Somebody is evidently bent on driving Street Business out of business, and Jackie wants the harassment to stop or at least wants to know who's responsible. Jackie's older brother Juan, a wealthy importer-exporter, has always supported Street Business financially and logistically, even to the point of sending two brutal minions to serve as Jackie's gofers. But he's kept his distance from his brother, and neither his meeting with Spenser at a society fundraiser nor the news that Spenser's been asking Juan's girlfriend, Carmen, a retired tennis player, questions brings the brothers closer together in time to light the Yuletide log. As Spenser goes through his routines--huddling with his main man, Hawk, calling in favors from Frank Belson of Boston Homicide and Capt. Healy of the State Police, working out at the gym, indulging in some discreet hanky-panky with his live-in therapist Dr. Susan Silverman, stuffing a turducken for the holiday dinner--you can feel Brann ticking off the boxes without adding anything of her own except for Christmas, which is a passing strange addition to the franchise. The mystery is even less robust than Parker's own final cases for the peerless PI, but Spenser lets nothing him dismay. If this adventure lights the tree, expect Christmas tales starring Jack Reacher, Alex Cross and Hannibal Lecter.
Read an Excerpt
SUSAN AND I WALKED from my place up to Newbury Street on a sunny Saturday morning. The snow from the night before had stopped falling. There wasn’t much traffic, mostly cabs and an occasional noisy snowplow. It was two weeks before Christmas. A Salvation Army worker in full uniform was ringing a bell beside a tripod bucket at the corner of Boylston and Berkeley.
“I’m glad we don’t exchange presents anymore,” I said.
“Me too,” Susan said. “Have you canceled your account at Victoria’s Secret?”
“Reluctantly. But they still send me the catalog.”
“You could probably have your name removed from the list,” Susan said.
We went into a women’s boutique, where the staff seemed to know Susan. I found a chair designed for a woman who weighed 108 pounds. I resumed my lifelong comparative study of the female form. Susan had opened a nearly insurmountable lead. That was no reason not to see who might be runner-up. Or in the top ten. After about forty minutes we left. Susan had bought what she referred to as a “lovely little top.” And several small packages in a shopping bag decorated with a large Santa Claus.
“I didn’t think Jews did Christmas shopping,” I said.
“More often we do Christmas selling. You do realize there’s a group of us at Harvard who gather every year and drink wine and exchange one gift each.”
“Any men in this group?”
“Sounds like a fun crowd. A gathering of Harvard women.”
“It can get a little fustian at times,” Susan said. “But I like these women, and there’s something sort of nice about a girls’ night out.”
“Sort of like Hawk and me at the fights?”
We turned the corner and into the bar door of the Taj Boston, formerly the Ritz, for a libation at the table we liked overlooking the Garden.
“I’ll have a glass of Edna Valley chardonnay,” Susan said to the waiter.
“Johnnie Walker Blue, soda, highball,” I said.
Susan smiled at me. “I like your Christmas spirit.”
“And I like yours.”
Susan sipped her wine. “Why do you suppose a grown woman, a doctor, a therapist at that, feels at Christmastime the same sense of excitement and anticipation she did when she was just a girl?”
“Perhaps we’ll need to discuss this later,” I said, lifting my glass.
“I do hope so,” Susan said, and raised her glass to me. “At length.”
I STOOD AT MY OFFICE WINDOW and looked out at the snow falling quietly onto the Back Bay and muffling the gleam of the Christmas lighting in the store windows. The snow had come often this year.
“Fa, la, la,” I said.
Pearl raised her head. She was with me on a take-your-dog-to-work day, which she spent, as she often did, on the couch in my office. I looked at her.
“La, la,” I said.
She didn’t know what I was talking about, but she was used to that. She could also sense that whatever it was, it had no connection to food. So she put her head back down on her paws and watched me in silent resignation.
I liked the myth elements of Christmas. The way in which its origins reach back far beyond Jesus, to the rituals of people unknown to us. The celebration of the winter solstice. The coming of light in the darkest time. And with it the promise of spring to come and beginning again. I liked it better than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
I went to my desk and sat down.
“Actually,” I said to Pearl, “I’ve had bad colds I liked better than Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
I sensed movement in her look. Then she lost interest and snapped her head toward the door and made a low growl. Hospitality dog.
The door opened and a kid came in.
He looked at Pearl and said, “That dog going to bite me?”
“Not,” I said, “unless you attack me.”
“For crissake, I’m a fucking kid.”
“I guessed that. Have a seat.”
Still watching Pearl, the kid sat down opposite my desk. His face was pointy and his eyes were close. He was wearing gray sweatpants that were too long for him. The bottoms of the pant legs were torn and ragged where the heel of his sneakers had repeatedly caught in them. His jacket was a threadbare navy peacoat, also too big, with the sleeves turned back. Under it was a gray hoodie. His baseball cap had a flat brim, and he wore it level and straight under the hood.
“How old are you?”
“Eleven, I think.”
“Yeah. I was there, but I don’t remember it, you know.”
“What about your parents? You know them?”
“My old lady was a drunk. I don’t think she knew who my old man was.”
“She the one who raised you?”
“Awhile,” the kid said. “Then she didn’t.”
“Wherever she went, she went.”
“So who raised you?”
“How was that?”
“Sucked,” the kid said. “You wanna hear why I come to see you?”
“I live in a place.”
“Where,” I said.
He made a looping gesture with his right hand.
“Around,” he said.
The kid frowned at me. He was so street-worn and tough-talking and life-weary that I forgot he was only eleven. Irony is not the long suit of eleven-year-olds.
“You don’t know where I live,” he said.
“No,” I said. “I was just making a little joke.”
“No,” I said. “Probably not. What’s your name?”
“Slide,” he said.
“What do you want me to do for you?”
“I want you to talk with Jackie,” Slide said.
“Who’s Jackie?” I said.
“Jackie asked me to come here and deliver his message. He needs to see you.”
“What does he want to talk to me about?”
“He’ll tell you.”
“He seen you on the TV.”
“Why didn’t Jackie come?” I said.
“He sent me. He wanted to know if you would see him,” Slide said.
“How long have you known Jackie?”
“A few weeks,” he said.
I nodded. “And before that?”
He shuffled uncomfortably in the chair. “Did odd jobs. Slept where I could. The Y. You know.”
“Uh-huh,” I said.
“Will you see Jackie?”
I took a card out of the middle drawer of my desk and gave it to him.
“You or Jackie call me when you’re ready,” I said.
“Okay,” he said.
The kid took the card and put it in the side pocket of his pants without looking at it. Then he stood up and looked at me and didn’t say anything and turned and went out.
I went to my window and watched him walk through the snow, his shoulders hunched, hands in his pockets, staying close to the walls of buildings, until he turned the corner onto Boylston Street and disappeared in the direction of the Public Garden.
WE WERE AT MY PLACE. I was making supper. Susan was at my kitchen counter. Pearl had stretched out the length of the sofa, longer than one would think possible for a seventy-five-pound dog.
“Tell me more about this boy who came to see you,” Susan said.
“His name is Slide, he’s eleven, and he lives with someone named Jackie in a place whose location is unknown.”
“That’s all?” she said.
I mixed bread crumbs and pignolis with a little olive oil and began to toast them in a fry pan on low.
“Except he’s terrified of his own shadow.” I stirred the contents of the pan, which were beginning to brown.
“And who is Jackie?” she said.
“Not much to go on,” I said.
I took the fry pan off the fire and emptied the toasted crumbs and pignolis into a bowl. I took an Amstel Light out of the refrigerator and opened it. I poured it into a tall glass. After a swallow, I said, “If you didn’t know, how old would you think you were?”
“Twenty-eight,” Susan said.
“Plausible,” I said. “But you’re far too smart to be only twenty-eight.”
“I try to conceal that.”
“I wonder why Jackie sent a boy instead of coming himself,” Susan said. I watched her sip her wine. After an hour, the glass was still half full. “You’ll talk with Jackie?”
“If he gets in touch,” I said.
“What if it’s something illegal,” Susan said.
“There’s illegal and illegal,” I said. “I make part of my living from that fact.”
I turned up the heat under the pot of water on the stove and put some whole-wheat linguine in it and set my timer. I sat on a bar stool opposite Susan, who took another sip and said, “Let me see if I have this right. Slide is sent by this guy named Jackie, who may or may not ever appear. And although you don’t fully grasp the situation, something about Slide has got you interested in helping him, whether Jackie’s activities are legal or not.”
“Slide’s eleven going on thirty. So far life hasn’t been full of good times for him. He’s afraid. Somewhere along the line he got scared, real bad. Of who, or what?”
“And maybe Jackie is the key to figuring out what’s happening,” Susan said.
The timer went off and I went over and drained the linguine. “Whatever Jackie turns out to be, or whether or not he shows up, Slide is definitely in some kind of trouble.”
“Slide is a convenient cover for Jackie to hide whatever he’s up to,” Susan said. “And since he didn’t come himself, it would appear that at the very least Slide is being used.”
“A Boston version of Oliver Twist,” I said. I plated the pasta and brought the plates over to the counter.
“There wasn’t much Charles Dickens in our house,” Susan said.
“That’s because you spent your time reading the diaries of Sigmund Freud.” I picked up my fork. “A match made in heaven.”
“So deep down, we’re really just a couple of Victorians?” she said.
“Maybe not. Just that we were educated early in the analysis of motivation,” I said. “Dickens, Freud, they’re all alike in the dark.”
Susan laughed. “Mrs. Freud might disagree with you on that.”
It was quiet for a moment. Then Susan said, “Have you given any thought to how we should spend Christmas?”
“Only that we should be together.” I glanced over at the softly snoring Pearl. “With Pearl, of course. Hawk, too. Maybe ask Paul if he can join us.”
“We’ll do it at my place. You know how I love to set a nice table for Christmas.”
“A beautiful paradox,” I said. “But anywhere you are, it’s Christmas to me.”
THE NEXT MORNING I met Hawk at the Harbor Health Club. Hawk was doing combinations on the heavy bag and I was hitting the double-end jeeter bag with my left hand. Hawk didn’t break a sweat. After ten minutes I was sodden and winded.
“You do any more damage to that bag, we’ll have to get Henry a new one for Christmas,” I said.
“Fuck Christmas,” he said.
“Wow,” I said. “And people say you’re not sentimental. You still bitter that Santa Claus is a white man?”
Hawk began to hit the bag alternately with both hands.
“Whole holiday be a white man’s scam. All those rich honkies running in and out of stores like they might miss buying the last Rolls on the floor. Bentley’s beneath them.” He shifted his feet a little and started hitting the heavy bag with his left hand.
“This from a guy who drives a Jaguar,” I said. “I would think you’d appreciate a nice Rolls.”
“Jag be subtle elegance, babe. Rolls just someone tryin’ too hard to impress people who don’t know better. That’s Christmas.”
“Well, Ebenezer, you had better work on your holiday spirit, or Susan’s going to rescind her invitation to Christmas dinner.”
Hawk stopped, lightly tapped the bag with his left hand, and looked at me.
“Christmas dinner? At Susan’s?”
I nodded. “We could call it a Kwanzaa dinner, if that would improve your mood.”
Hawk ignored me. “Just the three of us?”
“And Pearl,” I said.
“How about Paul?”
Paul Giacomin had spent several Christmases with Susan and me in the years since I had helped liberate him from his parents.
“Susan called—Paul will be at his in-laws’ this Christmas. We may visit him in New York after the New Year.”
“So just us? And Pearl?”
I nodded. “Unless there’s someone special you’d like to invite.”
“No one special at the moment.” Hawk grinned. “’Course, it ain’t Christmas yet.”
“So can I let Susan know you’ll be cruising by in the Jag to join us?”
“Tell Susan I’m looking forward to it.”
“I can feel her blushing already,” I said.
Hawk went back to pummeling the heavy bag.
“Dinner better be at Susan’s house, though. Wouldn’t park my car in your neighborhood, even if it is just a Jag.”
After we wound down, we walked to the South Street Diner at Kneeland Street. Hawk ordered a coffee with skim milk and two Equals. No donut. I ordered a coffee and two corn muffins. Between the first and second muffin, I told him about Slide. “He’s the most terrified kid trying not to show it I’ve ever seen.”
“I knew a boy like that once,” Hawk said.
“You.” I said it without thinking, knowing I was right.
Hawk looked at me. To the world, Hawk appeared impassive and impenetrable. And mostly, he was. I had been around him long enough, though, that I could recognize subtle changes. Things most people didn’t see, or didn’t notice. But I knew Hawk—to the extent anyone could know him—better than most people did. And now it was Christmas, a time for revelations. Maybe Susan could explain it to me. Perhaps it was a vestige of our need to huddle by the cave fire together and tell stories, to ward off the darkness outside.
Hawk stirred his coffee. I watched the people come and go by the cash register, bundled up against the eighteen-degree weather.
“When I was about Slide’s age, I hit the streets. The winter was always the worst. I got money to eat any way I could.” Hawk looked at me. “Any way.”
“This kid is scared. I don’t see you being scared.”
Hawk took a sip of his coffee. He placed the cup back down on the saucer and leveled his gaze at me.
“All kids scared one time or other. You on your own, you learn how to take care of yourself.”
I nodded. “You survive long enough, you learn not to be afraid.”
“Or you don’t survive, and it don’t matter.”
Hawk drained the rest of his coffee, then counted out his tip.
“You have help?”
Hawk stood up and slid into his parka.
“Lotta help, ’long the way,” he said. He paused. “One day I meet a cocktail waitress and she help me grow up real fast. I was sixteen and she was twenty.” He grinned. “Haven’t been scared since.”
WHILE I WASN’T FEELING particularly holly jolly about Christmas, I was quite interested in Christmas dinner. Sometimes we went out, and sometimes we stayed home, where I cooked and Susan stayed out of the way. I had been pondering wild boar. While I toyed with the idea of hunting it myself, I opted for a more refined approach. I explored the exotic game at Savenor’s on Charles Street. Then I drove out to Newton to inspect the offerings at John Dewar. Just in case I encountered a wild boar on the way to the suburbs, I took my gun.
Maybe turducken . . .
WHEN I GOT BACK to my office, waiting outside the door was a smooth, strapping guy with a lot of dark curly hair and the open professional smile of a television star. He was wearing an ill-fitting blue blazer over a collarless black shirt and gray slacks. His clothes had the worn and rumpled look of a thrift store sale.
He smiled. “My name’s Jackie. I was wondering if I could talk with you.”
“Come in,” I said, and unlocked the door.
I motioned him into the office. He stood next to one of the guest chairs until I had made my way around the desk. I sat. He sat. I tented my hands, rested my chin on my fingertips, and waited. The room grew quiet enough for me to hear the traffic noise from the street below. The steam radiator hissed.
“First thing,” Jackie said finally. “My name is Joachim Lorenzo Alvarez.”
“You obviously know mine.”
“I do,” Jackie said.
“So you know my name and what I do,” I said.
“And you only know my name?” Jackie said.
“Exactly,” I said.
“How much has Slide told you?”
What People are Saying About This
“This is the perfect holiday treat for crime readers needing another Spenser fix”
“Brann does a seamless job…Diehard Parker fans will be delighted.”
Praise for Robert B. Parker
“Is there a more promising opening in contemporary crime fiction than Boston PI Spenser opening his office door to a new client? Instantly we get Spenser’s clear-eyed view of the client, what his or her dress and stature have to say, and the rat-a-tat-tat of Spenser’s wise-guy answers to the client’s queries…a series of unflagging excellence…Great plotting, clever dialogue, and Spenser’s mouthwatering cooking all make for a fantastic time.”
Parker’s dialogue, clever to a fault, moves his tales along at a natural, human pace as his characters square off, verbs and nouns used like switchblades.”
—The Chicago Sun Times
“A fast and fun outing…Parker was a true stylist. His strength was in his sparseness and Painted Ladies shows him in fine form.”
—The Boston Globe
“As with all of Parker’s 70 novels, the prose is tight and muscular and the dialogue is superb. A must read for faithful fans of the series.”
— Associated Press
“In Spenser’s end is his beginning....Spenser can still nail a person’s foibles on first meeting, still whip up a gourmet meal in a few minutes, still dispatch the thugs who haunt his office and his home, and do it all while maintaining a fierce love of Susan Silverman and English poetry....Long live Spenser.”
Meet the Author
Robert B. Parker was the author of seventy books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, the novels featuring Chief Jesse Stone, and the acclaimed Virgil Cole /Everett Hitch westerns, as well as the Sunny Randall novels. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, he died in January 2010. Visit the author’s website at robertbparker.net and on Facebook at facebook.com/RobertBParker.
Helen Brann was Robert B. Parker's literary agent for thirty-two years, from 1978 to 2010, and is the literary executor of the Robert B. Parker estate. She is the owner of the Helen Brann Agency, Inc., which she founded in 1973.
- 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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Brann finished Robert B. Parker's novel Silent Night with a flourish. As much as I hate to say this the men who took over for his Jesse Stone and Spencer novels is missing the point. It is time to let Mr. Parker and his wonderful characters rest in peace.
The first few pages I had a difficult time getting the rythm of Brann's writing. Shortly there after, I found the rythm and very much enjoyed this version of Spenser. She seemed to have captured the essence of Spenser and the cadence of his speech, which is something that I consistantly enjoy. As has been the case with many recent Spenser novels more Hawk would have been nice. Also the book was much smaller in size and page count than I am used to. When I purchase a hardback (always my preference) I want something of substance. This felt almost like a paperback.
I am a long tim Parker reader and was very disapointed!!
Do not read this book. It is a travesty. Plus, at less than 175 pages, it's not a novel. Also, it was not formatted correctly, so I was never able to read the entire book. Nor was I satisfied with BandN efforts to reformat the book to my nook.
Pearl gets to taste turduckin (sp). And Hawk shows real emotion. I don't think that Mr. Parker could have done any better.
Thanks ferns -_-. It's okay 'u'. Yah... Mine is res one as well
Oops. Posted it in res one...
Here! 4th - 7th grade science is taken. Anything else is avalible! Including 8th - 12th science. Thanks!<p> `|`Kat`|`
Wish all authors had a final close in their safety deposit box like agatha christie did in curtains
Right out of the batter’s box, let us get this straight: This novel is OK if it weren’t labeled Robert B. Parker. It isn’t even a resemblance of the master. Or even of Ace Atkins. If it were just another book by another author it would be an acceptable read. Presumably, the outline for the plot is Parker’s, but little else should or can be associated with him The plot is fairly simple, and it isn’t a “Christmas” story, although it takes place over a couple of weeks leading up to that holiday. It is, of course, peopled with Spenser, Susan Silverman, Hawk and even Vinnie. But none of them sound or act as they have in the past. In fact, there really is no reason to summarize the plot here. Helen Brann was Parker’s long-time literary agent, and, as such, was granted the privilege to “finish” the work he started, but left in the wake of his death. She approached it in a workmanlike manner, but IMHO did not rise to the occasion. One wonders what the book could have been, had Parker finished it, or if it was completed in other hands.
Guys stop being a bully u guys r so rude stop being bullys what the h.e.l.l. did she do to u? So stop being so rude and being bullies God its so stupid
Sorry i couldn't post alex. And kaylie you are naughty. Go tell your sister that bullieing isn't right. Jeez people what did alex do to you? Nothing thats what!!!!
Unfortunately, I was not able to read this book through..........first I was unable to open one chapter - went ahead to the next...........then again, it wouldn't allow me to go on. I had to contact tech support - twice - as the 1st tech left me on hold so long we were disconnected. I was reimbursed the cost..........and appreciate that.
Not a triumph of stylistic imitation
Good Christmas read - good Parker story - he had started story prior to his death but Brann made it sound like all Parker - good job.
Such an exciting story with a touch of Christmas heart in it. I hope they continue his work. Need sone Jesse Stone now
I am a loyal fan of Spenser since the first book Robert B Parker wrote. Helen Brann did follow the demeanor that has been a Spenser trade mark for many years. This however is nothing more than a SHORT STORY! Penguin Group: You should be ashamed of yourself for charging more than it's worth.
I thoroughly enjoyed this last Parker written story. Spenser and Hawk are two of my favorite fiction characters and this final book conceived by Parker with Helen Brann contributions was a fitting farwell. I loved the inclusion of Christmas as part of the story line. Another vile criminal has bitten the dust. Another thing I enjoy about not only this book, but also the character of Spenser is his sense of justice. Things might not always go according to Hoyle, but somehow, the solutions are fair and workable. Rest in peace, Robert B. Parker!
Glad Ms. Brann could pick up where Robert B. Parker left off.
This relatively short book did not connect for me. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Parker's Spenser books has always been the word play between Spenser and Hawk and between Spenser and Susan. This did not live up to those expectations.
I hope Helen Brann is through trying to finish any more Parker's novels because this is the worst I have ever read. Being an avid Parker fan I buy anything with his name on it. Mistake! Never again. RIP Robert loved all your books. Laurence Hamlin
Helen Brann does a nice job finishing up Robert Parker's final manuscript, she managed to maintain his "voice" in the language and writing style. For those who are fans of Spenser, this is a nice holiday treat.