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Potshot    by Robert B. Parker order for
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2001 (2001)
Hardcover, Audio, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Where do you find ideas for a long-running series like the Spenser mysteries? One solution is to go back to the classics. Parker has fun in number twenty-eight, Potshot, combining the tale of The Magnificent Seven with a mystery plot that could have been written by Raymond Chandler. Potshot is the desert town dominated by bandidos, the villains of the Dell. This is a ragtag band led by a recent addition, The Preacher. These villains extract protection money from local merchants, to the detriment of the town's real estate value.

Town officials hire Spenser to clear out the Dell. True to the movie, he sets off cross-country, recruiting shady (but ethical) characters to a total of seven semi-good guys to deal with the forty odd members of the Dell, who eventually attack 'in a long, relentless line of trucks and motorcycles.' Of course, the seven start with Spenser and sidekick Hawk. Then come Vinnie and four other lawless characters met in previous novels. When they question Spenser's approach, wanting to improve the odds by ambushing the bad guys, Hawk explains his friend to them: 'The rest of us, we see something that needs to be done, we do it ... Spenser thinks that how you do it is as important as what you do.'

The Chandler plot starts typically in the first sentence with a young woman whose 'face was nearly angelic and looked about 15, though the fact she wore a wedding ring made me skeptical.' Mary Lou Buckman flies to Boston, asking Spenser to bring to justice the murderer of her husband, supposedly killed by members of the Dell. He agrees but, as usual, pursues the puzzle in his own way - Potshot holds hidden depths and its own surprises.

I enjoyed this latest in the series more than Sudden Mischief or Hugger Mugger. It's a fast, easy, fun read with Parker's usual amusing dialog between Susan, Spenser and their dog, and amongst Spenser and his shady seven - back to the old form that made the series so popular, but with an entertaining take-off theme. What's next? Return to Potshot?

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