Review: Chasing the Bear by Robert B. Parker

This is the book Spenser fans have been waiting for – it’s certainly the one I’ve been waiting for. I have all of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser novels in my library. In some cases, I have them in hardcover, paperback and audio versions (yeah, I can be a bit obsessive). In all those novels, Spenser has talked very little about his family. We know his mother died in childbirth and he was raised by his father and his mother’s two brothers in Laramie, Wyoming. He had a dog named Pearl. And that’s about it. He never really talks much about his childhood and the mystery is fun, but like a lot of readers, I’ve always wanted to know more. This book finally gives us some family history.

The book is short: 168 pages, with margins and font size that really stretch the page count. Over the course of an afternoon walk in the park, Spenser tells his story to the only person he ever really opens up to – Susan. He talks about his father and his uncles, going to school, his first girlfriend, and his adventures as a young man.

I enjoyed this book very much, as a fan. Spenser and Susan are always cute when they are canoodling, and they spend much of this book in a romantic frame of mind. You can definitely see the roots of the man in the stories of the boy – he has the same sense of fair play, feels the same duty to protect people, is just as chivalrous as a young man as he will be later on. And that’s part of the problem I have with the book. Spenser is a perfect child. He always makes the right decision, always does the right thing. I would have liked to read at least a little bad behavior, a little rebellion, a little sneakiness. But Spenser the boy isn’t very different from the man, even when he’s still figuring himself out.

The other thing that bothered me was the setting. Spenser and Susan are on a lovely walk in the park, watching the swan boats, and with just a question or two, he suddenly spills his life story, after years of keeping silent. Now, I love the way that he and Susan have aged, the way that their relationship has matured, but this still seems unlikely. After 35 years (give or take) of keeping the secret, he suddenly decides to talk? I don’t know about that. Still, it’s nice to have a little back story.

Now, I haven’t put a teaser in the comments in ages! So here we go: the first Robert B. Parker novel to talk about Spenser’s past and his mother’s death was Pastime, and in it, Parker makes a huge Shakespeare blunder:

“And I know that you were born in Laramie, Wyoming, and that your mother died while she carried you and you were born by caesarian section and your father and your two uncles, who were your mother’s brothers, raised you.”

“Me and Macbeth,” I said.

“Not of woman born,” Susan said. “But that’s all I know.”

Okay – see the mistake? Want to know which Shakespearean character was truly “not of woman born”? Check the comments for the answer.

My copy was an advanced reader edition; you can order your copy at

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