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    Review of SPARE CHANGE by Robert B. Parker (see his website)


    G. P. Putnam's Sons, June 2007

    Years ago, one case had stumped PI Sunny Randall's father. The 'Spare Change' killer murdered, apparently at random, but left three coins behind. When Phil Randall had been assigned the case, the Spare Change killer had written taunting notes. But nothing the police did led to his apprehension. And then, after a string of murders, the killing simply stopped. Now, though, twenty years later, they've started again. Phil Randall is called out of retirement and he brings his daughter, Sunny, with him to work on the case.

    Twenty years is a long time, and many cops would wonder if the killer had perhaps been locked up for another crime. Sunny doesn't think so, though. She soon fixates on one man--a man who seems to toy with her and with the police, yet who lacks a motive or any physical connection to the case--except that he was one of dozens captured when the cops closed down an area and rounded everyone up. Sunny finds herself flirting with a man she's certain is the killer (although he's young to have conducted the killings twenty years earlier).

    Meanwhile, Sunny is trying to deal with her own life by seeing psychiatrist Susan Silverman twice a week. Silverman nods, smiles, and offers cryptic wisdom, pushing Sunny to insights into her own personality that somehow don't actually lead to any improvements in her case. Poor Sunny is hooked on her ex-husband--so much so that she does everything she can to steal him away from his new wife. She also plays Oedipal games with her mother and sister, vying for her father's affection. She recognizes she even picked her career as a cop and then detective to win his favor.

    Author Robert B. Parker (see more reviews of novels by Parker) can be depended on for a quick read with witty dialogue and a macho world-view where certainties abound and absolute truths are easy. When working on the mystery, Parker keeps the action moving along although I would have liked to see a bit more actual detecting. Unfortunately, the story comes to multiple crashing halts when we deal with Sunny's inability to get on with her life, the wonderfulness of her dog, the wonderfulness of her father (in intriguing juxtaposition to the wonderfulness of the suspected serial killer's father), the wonderfulness of Susan Silverman, and the wonderfulness of Sunny herself.

    SPARE CHANGE is not a bad book--Parker doesn't write bad books. It's a short book with plenty of dialogue that could have probably been shortened another hundred pages by elimination of Susan Silverman (always a good idea in a Parker book) and by the elimination of the major eeew-factor relationship with ex-husband Richie.

    Two Stars

    Reviewed 10/01/07

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