Onyx reviews: Widow's Walk by
Robert B. Parker
It's hard to believe anyone alive is as obtuse as Mary Smith, Spenser's
client in Widow's Walk. A recent widow, she is accused of killing her wealthy,
older husband, Nathan. Mary is the obvious suspect: the doors were locked for
the night, the alarm was set, and no one else was in the house at the time.
Rita Fiore is defending Mary against the murder charges, but she harbors
suspicions that Mary is guilty. Believing the amazingly dense woman deserves the
best defense she can provide, she asks Spenser to look into the woman's
background to see if he can identify some additional suspects.
Mary is of little help. Simple questions alarm and confuse her. She refuses to
be interviewed without her publicist being present. That someone is willing to
testify she once asked him to kill her husband won't look good at trial, nor is
the fact that the couple reportedly had a very public fight hours before her
husband was found shot to death in his bed.
Spenser is very good at what he does: he blunders around annoying people until
something interesting happens. This time, however, the reaction is extreme. A
woman he questioned at Nathan Smith's bank is dismissed soon after their meeting
and, shortly thereafter, found dead. Spenser knows he's being followed, so he
enlists the help of his regular associate, Hawk, to watch his back.
It becomes clear to Spenser that someone takes his investigation seriously when
more people start dying. He suspects a larger conspiracy is at play in Nathan
Smith's death, but the few clues he is able to stir up don't point him in any
particular direction. It's difficult to shake loose the pall of guilt hanging
over Smith's widow, enhanced by her odd and suspicious behavior. Spenser also
finds indications that she was regularly unfaithful to her husband.
As he digs deeper into Nathan Smith's background, though, the puzzle becomes
more complex and someone decides it's time to put an end to his intrusive,
Spenser books are little more than novellas, padded out to novel length with
thick paper, wide margins, large fonts and generous spacing. The books are a
quick read, easily handled in an evening or on a day at the beach. Parker's
witty and erudite dialog is what carries the books along at such a high pace.
Descriptive narration is kept to the bare minimum and entire chapters are often
comprised of little more than dialog.
Widow's Walk is the twenty-ninth book in the Spenser series and it is a
moderately successful entry. The ending is needlessly complicated to the point
that it's not clear who really did kill Nathan Smith. Regular series characters
Susan Silverberg—Spenser's long-time romantic partner—and Hawk get cursory
treatment that lends only a little development to their characters.
But Spenser remains ageless. Given his history, he would have to be at least
seventy years old, but only his dog, Pearl, seems to be showing any signs of
aging. He is still able to roll with the punches and deliver beatings with the
best of them. Women—Rita Fiore for example—continue to fawn all over him.
It's becoming formulaic. Even the banter is beginning to sound stale and
familiar. Parker has tried to add some interesting elements in recent books by
sending Spenser away from Boston, but the best solution to add new life to this
series would be to age his detective realistically and throw curves at him that
are more personal.
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