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Painted Ladies: A Spenser Novel    by Robert B. Parker order for
Painted Ladies
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Penguin, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Painted Ladies is the 38th (following The Professional) in Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels - wow! Sadly the novel was published after the author's death in January 2010, so this seems likely to be my favorite PI's last curtain call. The story is enriched by a delightful doggy romance between Spenser and Susan's pooch Pearl and Otto, 'a yellow Lab with a massive head and a broad chest.'

The mystery opens with an art scholar and forensic art consultant, Dr. Ashton Prince, hiring Spenser to protect him during a ransom exchange for a masterpiece (Lady with a Finch) stolen from the Hammond Museum. After a bomb goes off during the exchange, obliterating Spenser's client, he is not a happy camper and starts digging on his own dime.

The painting was insured by the Shawmut Insurance Company, whose investigation is led by (ex-FBI, ex-Secret Service) Winifred Minor. She's the single parent of Melissa Minor, who spent a lot of time with Ashton Prince. There are attempts on Spenser's life, which come very close to succeeding, the hit men being all tattooed with the same number as an Auschwitz prisoner. The plot thickens as Spenser finds links to the Herzberg Foundation.

The implacable PI is up against an equally implacable foe (one who has no objection to collateral damage) in Painted Ladies, but I always put my money on Spenser; I'd be a fool not to. Susan comments at the end that 'The ability to love' is almost Spenser's standard of good and bad, not a bad note for Robert B. Parker to end on.

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