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Shrink Rap: a Sunny Randall novel    by Robert B. Parker order for
Shrink Rap
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Jove, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sonya (Sunny) Randall gets a shock at the beginning of Shrink Rap, when her divorced (but still very attached) ex, Richie, tells her that he may have found Ms. Right. Though her friends Spike and Julie encourage therapy so that she can figure out why she can neither love nor leave Richie, Sunny does not go near a shrink until she is hired to protect 'high end bodice ripper' author Melanie Joan from the psychotic psychiatrist ex-husband (John Melvin) who is stalking her.

To better understand (and trap) mad Melvin, Sunny consults a shrink recommended by social worker Julie and, in the process, gains some insights into the way in which her past relationships with her parents affect her present inability to live with Richie. As she investigates Melvin's list of attractive female patients, she uncovers nasty perversions of therapy involving date rape drugs. When murders follow, Sunny exploits her police connections to gain information and time.

As usual (and in this way very different from Spenser) Sunny compensates for her size and weight with hardware, like the 'double-barreled ten-gauge sawed-off shotgun' that her ex-cop father gave her. In over her head, and despite growing fears, she stubbornly resists seeking help until late in the game, when she puts herself at great risk to catch the villain. And, as the 'good shrink' tells Sunny, since 'Being corrupt doesn't make him incompetent', 'bad shrink' Dr. Melvin actually helps her to see herself more clearly.

In Shrink Rap, Robert Parker delivers his usual snappy dialogue and a PI with looks, integrity and attitude. The element of therapy (always in the background in the Spenser series given Susan's career) is growing stronger in both the Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series - a new shrink mystery sub-genre? I also found Sunny's take on 'the awfulness of September eleventh' early in the book to be an interesting aside; she (or perhaps the author) told us she feels vulnerable and 'angry, and vengeful and scared, and appalled.'

Though Sunny Randall seemed almost too much of a Spenser clone in early episodes Family Honor and Perish Twice, she has developed more distinctly this time and has come into focus. Shrink Rap is the best of the series so far, and I look forward to the next with great enthusiasm, hoping that it will also show us Sunny's ex Richie in more depth.

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