Pearl is gone but Paul is back in Back Story, Robert B. Parker’s thirtieth Spenser novel, which also features the first meeting between Parker series protagonists Spenser and Jesse Stone, and Parker’s pleasant cast of characters.
The occasion is the return of Paul Giacomin, who asks his sole father figure Spenser to help a friend find who killed her mother in a 1974 Boston bank robbery by self-styled militants. Besides Paul, who’s previously appeared in Spenser novels, Parker aptly uses his other reliable stars: the love of Spenser’s life, Susan Silverman; his partner of sorts, Hawk; his cop pals Quirk and Belson; and newer support, such as Vinnie, a good bad man, and an irreverent FBI agent, Nathan Epstein.
As expected, Parker’s expertly structured style unfolds in narrative setups and transitions, alternating with biting dialogue and rapid action. The dialogue propels the plot, which is both provocative and credible, and infuses the yarn with comfortable and witty interaction between the players.
The action ranges from routine office visits and retreats home to an exciting chase through some woods and even a suspenseful showdown and shootout at Harvard Stadium. The mood includes the meaningful, the mundane, and the maudlin. In a few subtle passages Parker reveals that another past character, Pearl the Dog, has died, and he handles it with touching charm and remarkable clarity and brevity.
Through it all, Spenser retains his sense of humor and sense of honor—duty, right and wrong, and loyalty, all blended like good liquor, sort of a moral Highball.
Interesting and intriguing, demonstrating trust and manipulation, Back Story is a fulfilling follow-up to Parker’s and Spenser’s many fine, fun, and fulfilling adventures.