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    Review of BAD BUSINESS by Robert B. Parker


    G. P. Putnam's Sons, March 2004

    Marlene Cowley hires private detective Spenser to get the goods on her husband--to prove that he is cheating on her. Finding he is cheating doesn't take long, but Marlene want's pictures. And before Spenser gets these, the husband gets killed. Marlene knows that the police look at the spouse first and re-hires Spenser, this time to find the real killer. As Spenser digs, he finds a wife-swapping guru, an energy trading company (think Enron) that is in precarious financial shape, and a hard-nosed security officer who seems to know all the secrets and wants Spenser off the case and far away. For Spenser, that is more than enough challenge and he digs into the case.

    For many of us (certainly including myself), any new Spenser book is reason enough to hit the bookstores and grab. Author Robert B. Parker (see more reviews of novels by Parker) mixes witty dialogue, macho male bonding, and sappy love to pull together a story that keeps the reader hooked and the pages turning. And BAD BUSINESS doesn't let down this tradition.

    Unfortunately, the best of the recent Spenser books are the ones that have the least Susan Silverman--and this one has a lot. I think the book could be profitably (and far more enjoyably) read by simply skipping every single scene that involves Susan. It's great that Spenser is still in love with Susan after all these years but it isn't what I want to watch--and their clever banter cloys. Spenser is getting older and he doesn't fight much any more, which is okay--at least he's not going around murdering people as he did when Susan left him--but this does reduce the action in the story.

    Any time a Spenser book hits the shelves, I read it. BAD BUSINESS is plenty good enough to make me look forward to the next one, and Spenser fans will want to grab it and read it. This isn't one of those that I'll put on my shelf and re-read, though, and there are plenty of Spenser novels on my permanent keeper shelf.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 3/20/04

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