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Back Story Hardcover – Mar 11 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: GP Putnam And Sons (March 11 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399149775
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399149771
  • Product Dimensions: 24.9 x 15.5 x 3.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 658 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #919,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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It was a late May morning in Boston. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Each time I finish a Spenser novel, I feel I have had enough, perhaps for a long time. But then a few weeks later I am hungry for one again. It's not the plots; they are cut from the same cloth that so many other detective novels are. It's the repartee between Spenser and Hawk that lifts these novels above the typical formulaic crime-adventure stuff that populates the e-book shelves these days. This repartee enlivens all the Spenser books equally, so it's difficult to say that this book is better than any of the others. They're all pretty good: not great, but pretty good.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
You know a series is in a rut when the author can't even introduce a new dog into the mix! The trio of Spenser, Hawk and Susan is so overly familar at this point that a different kind of mutt would have been most welcome. And sad to say, Parker can't be bothered to pause in his encomiums to Susan's perfection and Lucky Magazine-like riffs on Hawk's natty duds to make any attempt to develop the characters in this outing. Credulity is a bit strained as well--five bloody shooting deaths in a week and no heat on Spenser? Come on.
Dialogue is still crisp and settings are vivid, however, so even second-rate Parker is a cut above most of the stuff out there.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
At this point it's kind of academic, telling people that Spenser novels are fun to read. They're so easy to follow, quick to digest, and fun to enjoy, that it's almost a shame when the book proves to only be 280 pages or so long. The dialog's snappy, the characters interesting, and of course the plot winds up being almost irrelevant, just a vehicle for Spenser, Hawk, Vinnie, Capt. Quirk, and the gang to sit and talk for a while, and then shoot some bad guys.
This time around, Paul Giacomin (Spenser's adoptive son, first seen in one of the best Spenser novels, Early Autumn) brings Spenser a client, a young actress he knows whose mother was murdered in a bank robbery almost thirty years ago. She wants Spenser to find who shot her mother, and, Spenser being Spenser, when it turns out that she brought half a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts for him, he impulsively takes the case. I guess Spenser hasn't been caught up in the low-carb diet craze.
Instead, he soon finds himself mired in a decades-old murder case where all of the principles seem to have been Simbionese-Liberation-Army-type lunatics who waved guns around and shot people randomly, and just caught this young woman in the crossfire. Things are not what they seem, however, and everyone from the FBI to the CIA to the local mafia gets involved, trying to tell Spenser to leave the case alone and find something else to do. This, of course, only provokes Spenser, and makes him more curious about what's happening.
I enjoy Parker's writing immensely, and as I said, the plot's secondary to the characters, the dialog, and the writing. Parker by now has become the closest we're going to have (I think) to Raymond Chandler, and he's a great deal more prolific, thankfully. This was a reasonable addition to what's just about the longest-running series in American detective fiction, and what's certainly the most popular.
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By A Customer on May 7 2004
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Parker has really made an effort here, and it shows. Recent books were getting thinner and more off-hand, and the last in the Spenser series, "Widow's Walk" read like Parker wrote it while he was watching a ball game. But in "Back Story," Parker has done it for us again. It's not the "Godwulf Manuscript" and it's certainly not "Looking for Rachel Wallace," but it has depth and heft, and a fresh plot that involves us in some very satisfying intricacy as it works itself out. Spenser shows more of himself, and our understanding of him deepens. Here it isn't an appealing client needing real help that is the reason he keeps going; it is his own choice to finish what he started, even at considerable cost. He is "peerless," as Susan Silverman says, a man of integrity, humanity and power, whose choices, like this one, come always from a place of honor. And he still is as funny as he always was, with the same discerning eye, seeing everyone, from aging hippies to aging mobsters, right through any pretension or fascade, seeing the good in the bad guys and the bad in the good guys, seeing things as they are.
There are signs here that Parker is making some acknowledgement to the fact that if Spenser fought in Korea, he can't really be 42 years old anymore. Now he does weightlifting for repetition, rather than for weight, he does measured runs, with walk breaks, on Harvard's track, rather than pounding for miles along the Charles River. He decides to have one English muffin because the second one he wants isn't good for him. The women he says look pretty good are in their fifties, and both he and Hawk say sadly "Too young" when teenagers walk by in bikinis.
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Format: Hardcover
I don't know what compels me to keep reading Robert B. Parker's "Spenser" series. The plotting has become almost nonexistent, the dialog is recycled from book to book, the books are getting shorter and shorter and Parker mainly seems to amuse himself by seeing how many characters from previous books he can pack into the current one, so it obviously isn't for the fresh, original take on the private eye genre.
But it's still fun, dammit. Somehow, Parker always manages to engage my attention. The interaction between Hawk and Spenser still amuses, Spenser's twisted honor code still thrills and Susan's soppy shrinkiness still annoys.
In this outing, we are on the hunt for the perpetrator of a killing 30 years in the past. The actual plot is incidental, as Parker seems to be making things up as he goes. The characters are, as usualy, thinly written and heavily dependent on stereotypes. But Spenser gamely travels from Boston to New Hampshire to California and back, giving us all our two hour's worth of lively description and jaunty heroism.
If you are already a fan of the series, you've already bought this one and don't need my review. But if you are not already a fan, don't start here. Go back to the fabulous days of Ceremony, A Catskill Eagle, The Judas Goat and you will become a fan, ready to read and grouse over each new entry in the Parker oeuvre.
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