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Now & Then    by Robert B. Parker order for
Now & Then
by Robert B. Parker
Order:  USA  Can
Putnam, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In Now & Then, Robert B. Parker offers fans his usual genial read, centered on a murder investigation, and on one of the great romances of the mystery genre, the unbreakable - though at times stressed - bond between tough PI Spenser and the love of his life, shrink Susan Silverman.

Spenser is approached by a distraught man, Dennis Doherty - who turns out to be an FBI agent - to find out if his wife Jordan, an English professor at Concord College, is having an affair. And indeed she is, with Perry Alderson, who runs an antigovernment group called Last Hope, and is using Jordan to ferret out information about FBI anti-terrorism operations. Of course, Spenser can't keep this to himself and he shares with Epstein, the special agent in charge of the Boston FBI Office.

The entire situation brings back memories for Spenser - of the time years before when Susan had a relationship with someone else - and pushes all his buttons. Then the case is muddied by murders, making it even more personal for this PI, who is an unusual mix of the pragmatic and the romantic, but with a deep sense of personal responsibility - he doesn't like people dying on his watch.

In some ways, these cases are getting a little too easy for Spenser. Every time trouble comes calling, he simply picks up the phone and calls his personal Marines - Hawk and various ethical shooters from previous adventures - to the rescue. This time he needs Hawk, Vinnie and Chollo to protect Susan, his only weakness form the villains' point of view. Of course their presence increases opportunities for the kind of banter that Spenser fans particularly enjoy in the series, and of course they jointly bag the bad guy.

Robert B. Parker has been revisiting the past in recent episodes - helping April Kyle for the third time in Hundred-Dollar Baby, and echoing Spenser's own difficulties with Susan in his client's situation this time around. And the pair raise an interesting possibility at the end of this book, one that will leave fans anxious to find out what happens next.

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