The Barnes & Noble Review
Spenser is back. In Small Vices, his 24th adventure, we find the private eye working on a case of wrongful incarceration a case that reopens the murder of a Boston coed. Spenser's cynical and pushy nature gets him what he wants, when he wants it, but it gets under people's skin. Despite being threatened, he doesn't drop the case; Spenser is a man of principle and a man set in his ways. Suddenly we see Spenser as we have never seen him before: near death, having taken three bullets from a hired assassin. Most men would give up, but who ever said that Spenser was like most men?
Spenser embarks on the long, hard road of rehabilitation with his friend, Hawk, and his lover, Susan, by his side. And from the start his mind is set on one thing: regaining the strength and skill to take on the would-be assassin face to face, man to man, until justice is done. Spenser has never come up against something quite like this a professional killer who just might be his equal...and then some.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Spenser returns in top form (his 24th adventure, following Chance) to clear a man wrongly imprisoned for murdering a woman college student. Ellis Alves, a black man with sexual assaults on his record, was convicted easily when two witnesses said they saw him kidnap the victim. Former prosecutor Rita Fiore suspects a frame-up, however, and hires old pal Spenser to investigate. "You gonna get buried," Alves warns Spenser and his sidekick Hawk. Sure enough, reopening the case pits them against the victim's influential parents, her hostile tennis-star boyfriend and his wealthy family, and the state cop who arrested Alves. Four Boston thugs can't force Spenser off the case, but an imported hit man pours several bullets into him. Barely surviving, Spenser emerges from a coma with his gun hand useless. Parker writes a powerful, affecting description of Spenser's painful rehab. The sharp, densely compacted dialogue, a hallmark of this series, exceeds itself here. Even psychologist Susan Silverman's discourse, as she shrink-raps on Spenser's motivation, has a lower than usual pretense quotient. Susan wants to adopt a child with Spenser, but he is determined to risk another clash with the hit man. Spenser, still thoroughly convincing as the tough and decent PI, seeks bits of justice where he can. Even after 23 years on the job (The Godwulf Manuscript, Spenser's first appearance, was published in 1974), nobody does it better. BOMC selection (Apr.)
Peerless shamus Spenser's 24th case (Chance, 1996, etc.) is almost his last, thanks to an assassin who's a lot more like him than he'd like to acknowledge.
Cone, Oakes and Baldwin, Boston's largest law firm, doesn't like loose ends, and when Rita Fiore and Marcy Vance, the former prosecutor who put Ellis Alves away for murder and the former public defender who couldn't save him from the big house, meet in the firm's tony corridors and share doubts about the case, they end up hiring Spenser to make sure the evidence is solid. Nobody, including Alves, a career criminal with an attitude about white folks, wants to talk to Spenser, but it isn't long before he smells several rats anyway. Why didn't the upscale couple (since married) who said they saw Alves drag Pemberton College coed Melissa Henderson into his car call the police till after Melissa was dead? Why would a lowlife like Alves have dumped her body on the well-tended Pemberton campus? Why do the parents of Melissa's boyfriend, tennis hopeful Clint, deny that they ever knew Melissa? Interesting questionsinteresting enough to get Spenser the obligatory string of warnings by local thugs and crooked cops and a dead-eyed killer in a gray suit. But Spenser won't lay off, even though his personal shrink Susan Richman, avid to adopt a baby, switches to reminders that Ellis Alves undoubtedly belongs in jail for something. So the Gray Man comes after Spenser with his trademark .22, short-circuiting every surprise (hey, this isn't Nicolas Freeling) except the question of how Spenser's going to recover and nail his would-be executioner and the people who hired himand then live with himself afterwards.
It's a tribute to Parker's professionalism that he takes a device as old as Sherlock Holmesthe death and rebirth of the detectiveand infuses it with renewed urgency and moral weight, showing the thoroughbred form that put him and Boston on the p.i. map in the first place.
From the Publisher
"In Small Vices Mr. Parker not only brings his hero to the point of death but challenges him to confront his own mortality in a way that he hasn't since Valediction."The New York Times Book Review, Marilyn Stasio