When I read “Widow’s Walk” last month, I was surprised how fast a read it was. Did I like the plot? Not particularly, although it carried me along, and had sufficient ambiguity to add a little interest. Last night, having returned from a very nice afternoon Thanksgiving celebration, I had just about enough energy, I thought, for another, so I went to my box of 16 signed Robert Parker first editions (don’t ask), and at random picked up “Chance”, another mystery starring star private investigator, Spenser.
I found it just as quick and easy to get through, although I must say that I thought “Widow’s Walk”, while not a great book, was a better book than “Chance”. In “Chance”, Spencer was able to stop a takeover of the entire Boston underworld by “the Russians” (from New York, no less), and insult the worst guys in town, yet come away not only victorious but (except for a fat cheek) unscathed. A bit much.
Yet, again, it did carry me along, so I am sure I will read more of Robert Parker on those days and evenings when anything else would be too much for me to tackle.
Parker’s books are, of course, set in Boston (although “Chance” has several chapters set in Las Vegas) and I enjoy the way he moves around the city. Although I have not lived in Boston for over 40 years, and only visit now and then, his geographic locations are as non-challenging as his dialogues, and he is never somewhere that I can’t visualize. The same was true of his ventures up and down, and on and off, the Las Vegas strip.
Feeling so geographically comfortable with Robert Parker, I should say one more thing. I also, over the past few weeks, tried to read my first George Pelecanos book, “The Sweet Forever”. Pelecanos is not quite so easy and quick as Parker (but who is?), and (in this book at least) has a plot that itself may not be over complicated, but is made confusing by a cast of too many characters. His books are set not in Boston, but in Washington, DC, where I have lived for over 40 years. Nevertheless, although I always knew the places to which Pelecanos referred, I was not geographically comfortable with him. His locations are not general (like Parker’s Boston Common, or Storrow Drive), but are detailed down to the street, the intersection, the precise neighborhood, sometimes even the exact store.
Too much, I thought. It was like Pelecanos was a subscriber to “FourSquare”, that awful this-is-where-I-am-now application that I had to block from Facebook, because I didn’t really care that my “friends” were at the Georgetown Safeway, the Starbucks on Connecticut Avenue and Livingston Street, or the Cosi across from Mazza Gallerie.
I read about 40 pages of “The Sweet Forever” and put it aside. I will read more Parkers; but I think I have picked up my last book by George Pelecanos. (I should report that my wife liked the Pelecanos book and had none of the problems that I had with it, and that the many Amazon.com reviewers rate it quite high. So, I am only speaking for myself, and am willing to look at it as my problem, not his.)