Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker

I have been reading Spenser novels for a long time – a very long time. It’s gotten to the point that not a lot of people remember the old Spenser: For Hire tv series with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks. (When I read a Spenser novel, I still hear Brooks’ voice whenever Hawk speaks.) On the whole, I have been a huge fan of the series. Spenser is an interesting hero, a guy who thinks a lot about what makes him pursue the sort of work he does. He tries to do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t easy or profitable. Hawk is just plain hot – strong, silent, smart and utterly lethal. They are surrounded by a cast of characters that reminds you just how fine the line is between good guy and bad guy.

Sadly, the series has been on the decline. It’s as if Parker has run out of storylines but can’t seem to let the series go. A few years ago, Spenser and Hawk staged an epic battle at a western ranch, surrounded by all the men who have made the series great. That would have been an excellent final story.

Hundred Dollar Baby is a bit better than some of the recent entries. There isn’t anything new, but the stuff that’s reworked isn’t too bad. We’re almost working on a second generation of clients with April Kyle making another appearance. She was a 15 year old hooker/runaway when Spenser first tried to save her. She wouldn’t go home, wouldn’t stay in foster care, so Spenser turned her over to Patricia Utley, a high-end New York madam. Not a great option, but better than a lot of teenage prostitutes probably get. Now she’s all grown up, running a whorehouse of her own and once again, she’s in trouble with a man (the third time for this book series) and she needs Spenser to get her out. He’s at his best when cases require a lot of muscle and leave him in morally murky waters.

The story is perfectly predictable, if you’ve read more than 3 of the earlier novels, but I love Spenser and Hawk and I don’t mind knowing where the story is leading. It’s a pleasant bit of nostalgia for Spenser fans, but that’s really all you’ll get from it.

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