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Hundred-Dollar Baby: A Spenser Novel    by Robert B. Parker order for
Hundred-Dollar Baby
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Spenser finds himself working for an early client once more in Hundred-Dollar Baby. Actually, it's his third time around helping April Kyle - she was a teen runaway in Ceremony, and he rescued her from sexual slavery and a man she should never have trusted in Taming a Sea Horse. This time, he consults the love of his life, psychiatrist Susan Silverman, regularly about April's take on life.

Now, New York madam, Patricia Utley, enlisted by Spenser to help April after their first encounter, has set up her protegée in business in Boston, where April runs a very discreet, high-class bordello in an elegant mansion. April herself is a knockout. When Spenser first sees her he doesn't recognize her. The voice is old money, but he concludes 'Someone I knew was there behind those eyes.' It turns out that April's business is being disrupted and clients distressed by low-lives working for Ollie DeMars. She needs Spenser's help. Of course he agrees.

To cover all the angles, Spenser enlists not only the formidable Hawk but also gay Tedy Sapp, who flies in from Georgia, and adds his perspective to the ongoing banter that makes the series a delight to read. They deal with assorted villains without breaking into a sweat. Spenser finds a trail and follows it to New York, where Detective Eugene Corsetti helps uncover the man who hired Ollie, con artist Lionel Farnsworth, once a regular client of April's. As Spenser meanders his way through the usual maze of lies - including those of his own client - murder ups the ante, and the police give him a deadline.

When April comes to her knight in shining armor as the story opens, she tells him 'You taught me everything I know that matters', to which he replies in his inimitable fashion that not many things matter. Her response echoes his teaching, 'But the ones that do ... matter a lot.' A good life lesson for anyone, and it's a pity April herself didn't learn it better. The PI is back in top form in Hundred-Dollar Baby, and though I also enjoy following the adventures of Sunny Randall and Jesse Stone, no-one can compare with Spenser being Spenser.

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