Monday, 29 October 2012

Thin Air by Robert B Parker

Thin air is what Lisa St Claire has vanished into, at least that’s how it seems to her husband, Boston cop Frank Belson. But then, Lisa is young and very pretty, and poor old Frank’s getting on in years, so what can he expect?

Private Eye Spenser knows Frank and Lisa and isn't convinced by the poor old Frank school of thought, and when someone takes a shot at Frank, Spenser becomes even more convinced that there’s some other reason for Lisa’s disappearance. In fact the reader knows there is another reason; because we've witnessed her abduction on page one, though we’re not sure who’s responsible or why, or exactly what’s going on. 

Spenser’s investigation into Lisa’s past, before her marriage, takes him deep into a history of abuse, alcoholism and prostitution and ultimately to a barrio fortress in a Massachusetts mill town which has become the hub of a power struggle.

In the closing chapters, a battle taking place in the streets surrounding the fortress moves into the crumbling walls of the stronghold itself.

This was my first Robert B Parker novel, and damned if Parker didn't die in January 2010. This keeps happening. I try to keep up with authors while they’re still around, but I guess most of them had been working at their writing a lifetime before they became well-known enough for any of us to find them.

Parker’s writing has been described as Chandleresque, sometimes to the point of self-parody. It is Chandleresque; I didn’t notice any parody myself, but this is the first Parker book I've read. Maybe you need to read a lot to notice it. I thought his writing had quite a light touch; in this one he seemed to be marrying elements of detective thriller and Western adventure, and I was quite happy to be along for the ride.

Detail: Spenser is spelled with an s as in Edmond Spenser, the writer of The Faerie Queen (what?); and the character has no known first name. Probably I will read another one of these.

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