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Back Story: A Spenser Novel    by Robert B. Parker order for
Back Story
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Spenser is in fine fettle in Back Story, despite the recent loss of Pearl the Wonder Dog. In fact, one of the PI's important early errands in this episode is to drive to Toronto to pick up the new Pearl, 'an all-chocolate fifteen-month-old female German shorthaired pointer'. Adjustment between the new puppy, the PI and the psychiatrist forms the backdrop to this adventure along with the ongoing, deeply romantic relationship between Spenser and Susan, 'the most complete person' he'd ever known.

A box of Krispy Kremes is the fee for the PI's latest quixotic quest, this time back into hippie history and a twenty-eight year old bank robbery and murder, on behalf of an actress friend of Paul's (I enjoyed Parker's typical summary of the 60s as 'constant worry that you might turn into your mother'). As usual, Spenser's seemingly innocuous investigation quickly stirs up a hornet's nest of trouble. There's a missing FBI file, gunshots and threats from both the authorities and the mob against Spenser and Susan. Why are they so concerned to keep such a cold case buried?

Hawk helps out as a bodyguard and a partner in banter, and Vinnie hangs around for protection as well. Fans of the author's Paradise series will be delighted to see a brief but productive working relationship between Spenser and Police Chief Jesse Stone, whom Hawk compliments with 'He ain't no small-town shit-kicker'. And several campus killings later, Spenser muses that he's almost 'eligible for tenure'. When he worries about how easy it is for him to mow down the opposition, Susan is there with support of his 'lifelong quest to be true' to himself, telling him that he is 'the damn grail'.

Of course, he does complete the quest and uncover some most surprising facts in a plot that goes down as smoothly as the Scotch the PI consumes. Back Story is as good as some of the vintage episodes in the series, and that's darn good. My only problem with these mysteries is that all the good guys start to sound like Spenser after a while; must be catching ... Bada bing!

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