While Netflix’s recent Mark Wahlberg-starring Spenser Confidential was at best mildly diverting, it was enough to prod me into finally checking out Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Mortal Stakes is the third entry starring the tough-guy ex-cop.
Spenser is definitely a fists-first type of detective, and the plot of Mortal Stakes calls for little in the way of deduction or following the evidence. Spenser is hired by the general manager of the Boston Red Sox to investigate a rumor that the team’s star pitcher is throwing the occasional game at the behest of local gamblers. Spenser is brought into the clubhouse under the cover story of being a writer penning a book about the team, but the book quickly abandons this gambit. Other than the pitcher involved, Marty Rabb, and the club’s broadcaster Bucky Maynard, the rest of the Sox do not get involved in the narrative.
By barreling ahead fists forward, Spenser gloms onto the truth, that Rabb’s wife’s unsavory past has left him susceptible to blackmail. It’s a tricky situation but Spenser wins the day with some fisticuffs and gunplay.
Parker’s prose is simple and straightforward, sometimes maddeningly so. He ain’t Hemingway. The extensive lists of all the places in Boston he drives past are tedious, and the relative lack of stakes (there’s no murder to solve) makes the title more than a little ironic.
This way my first Spenser novel, and it’s easy to see why the books are popular. It’s a quick read and lightly entertaining. But I doubt very much I’ll be continuing on in the series.