It's good to see private eye Spenser back in Boston, after his ludicrous imitation of a frontier lawman in Robert B. Parker's Potshot. But he's getting nowhere investigating the gunshot murder of banker Nathan Smith in Widow's Walk. The cops figure Smith's ingenuous but unfaithful young wife, Mary, pulled the trigger. She denies it. Spenser, hired by former prosecutor Rita Fiore to help build Mary Smith the best defense her money can buy, isn't sure either way, and the more time he spends on this case (dense with business and sexual deceptions), the more perplexed he becomes.
Of course, our poetry-spouting hero finally catches a break by linking Smith's demise to a convoluted real-estate scam. The rest of the novel offers plenty of Parker's characteristically witty dialogue, the slayings of several informants that you know from the get-go are toast, and ample opportunities for Spenser and his robustly menacing sidekick, Hawk, to intimidate lesser thugs. Unfortunately, the author isn't as attentive to the needs of other series regulars, including Spenser inamorata Susan Silverman, whose restrained jealousy toward lawyer Fiore ("Rita is sexually rapacious and perfectly amoral about it. I'm merely acknowledging that") and self-flagellation over a gay client's suicide somehow add no new depth to her character.
Parker has a propulsive prose style and can still concoct engrossing stories; his 2001 standalone Western, Gunman's Rhapsody, is a fine example. Widow's Walk doesn't quite meet that standard. Though entertaining, it's an unsatisfying chapter in a series that's become too predictable. --J. Kingston Pierce
"Sometimes you have to wonder how Robert B. Parker keeps his mojo working. . . . There is a trick to keeping the faith with an old hero. In an age of shifty heroes with shaky values, he has created a hero who can still stand up for himself-and us." (The New York Times Book Review)
When fifty-one-year-old Nathan Smith, a once-confirmed bachelor, is found in his bed with a hole in his head made by a .38-caliber slug, it's hard not to imagine Nathan's young bride as the one with her finger on the trigger. Even her lawyer thinks she's guilty. But given that Mary Smith is entitled to the best defense she can afford-and thanks to Nathan's millions, she can afford plenty-Spenser hires on to investigate Mary's bona fides. Mary's alibi is a bit on the flimsy side: She claims she was watching television in the other room when the murder occurred. But the couple was seen fighting at a high-profile cocktail party earlier that evening, and the prosecution has a witness who says Mary once tried to hire him to kill Nathan. What's more, she's too pretty, too made-up, too blonde, and sleeps around-just the kind of person a jury loves to hate.
Spenser's up against a wall; leads go nowhere, no one knows a thing. Then a young woman, recently fired from her position at Smith's bank, turns up dead. Mary's vacant past suddenly starts looking meaner and darker-and Spenser's suddenly got to watch his back.
With lean, crackling dialogue, crisp action, and razor-sharp characters, Widow's Walk is another triumph.
One of Boston's elite has been murdered. The accused is his new wife. She's blonde, beautiful, and young. The jury's going to hate her. With next-to-no alibi, and multi-million reasons to kill her husband, she needs the best defense money can buy. His name is Spenser, and he'd give anything to believe her.