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Painted Ladies: A Spenser Novel [Audiobook, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Robert B. Parker , Joe Mantegna
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 37.00 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Oct. 5 2010 Spenser Mysteries
The brilliant new Spenser novel from the beloved New York Times-bestselling author Robert B. Parker.

Called upon by The Hammond Museum and renowned art scholar Dr. Ashton Prince, Spenser accepts his latest case: to provide protection during a ransom exchange-money for a stolen painting.

The case becomes personal when Spenser fails to protect his client and the valuable painting remains stolen. Convinced that Ashton Prince played a bigger role than just ransom delivery boy, Spenser enters into a daring game of cat-and-mouse with the thieves. But this is a game he might not come out of alive...

Completed the year before he passed away, Painted Ladies is Spenser and Robert B. Parker at their electrifying best.

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About the Author

Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books, including the recent New York Times bestsellers Split Image and The Professional. He passed away in January 2010. Visit the author’s website at: www.robertbparker.net

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
"But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." -- Romans 13:5 (NKJV)

I once heard Robert B. Parker remark that he didn't care if publishers didn't bring out his latest novels right away, just as long as the advance checks didn't bounce. Despite the loss of this prolific novelist, there are still a few more books to come out . . . so this is not farewell. I'm glad of that, both because I want more Spenser and because Painted Ladies isn't the right book for the series to end on.

As the book opens, Spenser takes on a job that doesn't thrill him, chaperoning an unappealing popinjay professor who will be taking a ransom to exchange for a valuable stolen painting. The hand-off doesn't go as planned for the professor or for Spenser, and Spenser finds himself in the role of solitary avenger (there's no Hawk in this story) with a few helpful nudges from his friends in the police. The plot heads off into a more remote direction than you might expect in the beginning, and it takes awhile to see who all the bad people are. Once the players are in place, you'll probably deduce the outcome before Spenser does. But that's all right; you're in it for the wisecracks, aren't you?

Like many of the more recent Spenser stories, it's bare bones and it won't take you long to read it. But despite that, Robert B. Parker charms us with Pearl's romance and lots of Spenser and Susan together. "Ain't love grand?"

Unfortunately, this book is also available in what seems like a particularly overpriced Kindle version. Does the publisher still think that greed is good?
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Credit-Worthy Finale Jan. 2 2011
Format:Hardcover
This novel is not the last Robert B. Parker book that will ever be published. That honor belongs to Sixkill, which is being released in May 2011, some 16 months after Parker's sudden death. But even if Painted Ladies were the final Parker book, it would be a good conclusion to a celebrated career that resurrected a moribund genre and made Parker a legend even before he died.

Painted Ladies starts with one of only two major failures in the career of Boston private eye Spenser. A man Spenser is hired to protect gets killed. The previous time that happened decades ago, Spenser agonized and berated himself for a prolonged period of time. On this occasion, with the wisdom of advancing years, he calmly goes about solving the mystery of his client's death. In doing so he faces one of the most difficult challenges he has ever faced: Taking on a highly organized terrorist organization all by himself. The last time he faced off against such an organization, in the 1980s novel The Judas Goat, he had Hawk along to help, but this time Hawk is in Southeast Asia doing his own thing. Spenser could call on one of his many other professional contacts, but chooses to redeem himself in the only way he knows how.

The familiar cast of Spenser novel characters makes its dutiful appearances, but the legend of Spenser remains at the core of this solid, highly readable entry in a series that enjoyed well-deserved success for more than 30 years. Thanks to Parker for the many hours of enjoyment and inspiration he provided, and may he rest in peace.
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5.0 out of 5 stars STELLAR NARRATION OF THIS SPENSER NOVEL Dec 8 2010
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Audio CD
Have to admit it - seeing the name Joe Mantegna on an audio book sells me immediately. His incredibly compelling reading of Boardwalk Empire is one of my all-time favorites and the same can be said of PAINTED LADIES.

A 40 year show business veteran he is an accomplished, versatile actor as evidenced in over 100 films (The Godfather Part 3, Forget Paris, etc.) In addition, his television appearances have garnered critical praise (The Rat Pack, The Last Don. Criminal Minds).

This wealth of experience is obvious in his stellar narration of what regrettably is one of the last Robert Parker Spenser novels. Mr. Parker will be greatly missed, and I join millions of others in remembering him for the many hours of listening/reading pleasure his books have brought.

In his inimitable way Parker grabs us from the beginning with PAINTED LADIES. Spenser has agreed to guard art professor Ashton Prince during a ransom payoff - thieves are being paid for the return of a stolen painting. As it turns out Prince really needed a guard as he's blown to bits during the procedure.

We all know that Spenser can't let that pass so he determines to find out exactly who stole the painting, why the ransom wasn't simply accepted and the painting returned, and why and by whom Prince was so explosively dispatched.

We're treated to the return of some of the characters we've learned to appreciate in previous Spenser tales as well as some intricate sleuthing on Spenser's part.

As I understand it there is one more Spenser novel due out next year. Meanwhile, enjoy PAINTED LADIES and the narration of Joe Mantegna.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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By S. Morehouse TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book has art, mystery, love and some personable dogs thrown in for good measure. Spenser is hired to protect an art historian. A painting has been stolen and the ransom is being paid. Spenser is to protect the historian as he makes the trade. Unfortunately for the historian, Spenser is not able to do this and a bomb blows up the art and the professor. This doesn't sit well with Spenser who takes his job seriously and he now is on the hunt to find out who killed Dr. Prince and why.

This is vintage Robert Parker. There is a lot of dialogue. In fact the book is mostly dialogue. There's very little description or introspection. It almost reads like a script without the stage directions. Which makes me wonder if it will end up as a TV movie of the week? At times I got a little tired of the short, snappy dialogue that often lacked pronouns or adjectives. But Spenser is witty, lovable, and intelligent often surprising people with his literary quotes. His love interest is a psychologist and this allows Parker to provide ongoing insights into the psyche of the various characters, including Spenser. This is an entertaining read and worth adding to your collection.

Sadly Robert Parker passed away in January at the age of 77. He was a prolific writer, writing both crime and western novels. I've enjoyed reading both the Spenser and Jesse Stone series. He will be missed.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  114 reviews
78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Spenser's First Farewell... Oct. 5 2010
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
...is not what I would have hoped for from the first of the impromptu trilogy of Spenser's final adventures. But Robert B. Parker wasn't planning on the heart attack that took him away.

The primary hole in this book is: no Hawk. He's said to be in Central Asia (presumably Afghanistan though it isn't stated) working for the CIA. As a result, the dialogue suffers from a lack of Parker's trademark repartee. There's also at least one minor continuity breach but nothing that mars the book. It's reminiscent of the earliest books were Spenser referred to the mother who had, in the later books, died while giving him birth.

The plot also, at least in the first 2/3rds of the book, almost reads like a re-write of the previous Spenser novel, "Rough Weather": really bad guy reappears to reclaim a long-lost daughter. But the two novels are alike only in bare outline. The villain is one of Parker's weaker ones. Unlike Rugar, or Joe Broz or Marty Anaheim, there's almost nothing to distinguish him from The Generic Standard Bad Guy from Central Casting. He's not painted with the complex palette that Parker's best villains and anti-heroes usually have. Instead he's essentially one color and a drab one at that.

As I said, tho' it resembles "Rough Weather" it takes a sharp turn, presenting Spenser with one of his trademark dilemmas. The solution, however, is not.

While, to reiterate, I would have preferred a stronger book, this one, despite the flaws listed above, meets all, if not exceeds, the standards we've come to expect from Parker. The crisp, crackling writing; the colorful names (although, thankfully, he doesn't push this to the point of parody as did Lawrence Sanders) and many of the usual cast of characters that have populated Spenser's Boston for the past 25 years.

If you're a dedicated Spenser fan like I am (been reading the novels for 24 years), then I think you'll be filled if not full. If you've never read one of the books before, I highly suggest you either start at the beginning, "The Godwulf Manuscript" or plunge in, mid-stream, with the best of the novels, A Catskill Eagle (Spenser Novels (Dell)).

What maybe the last full-length Spenser novel will be published next May called Sixkill (Spenser Mystery)

Before "Sixkill" there is an "Untitled Spenser Holiday Story" scheduled for publication next month. Whether this is another full length novel or the last one of the "young adult" books that began with "Chasing the Bear" isn't made clear. I certainly hope it's the former and not the latter.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Smooth Oct. 11 2010
By Mel Odom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Robert B. Parker's Spenser has been my favorite tough guy private eye for decades. Based in Boston, the ex-boxer has faced several rounds with bad guys of every stripe, and confronted all the moral ills of our society. I love Parker's dialogue in the books, and I love the cast of characters that have become part of my extended family.

Painted Ladies starts off with a bang - literally. The art professor Spenser agrees to bodyguard during a buyback from art thieves gets blown to smithereens in Robert B. Parker's latest (and sadly, one of his last) novels. Of course, Spenser being Spenser, the detective needs to do something to square the balance. He sets off to figure out who killed Ashton Prince, and that's going to require finding out why and what the stakes are.

The novel doesn't really introduce anything new into Spenser's world, or into the reading experience of a long-time reader. There are a lot of good one-liners, but fans have come to expect them, and there are the relationship discussions with Susan, and fans have come to expect those as well.

Spenser does his sleuthing in a round-about fashion, something the series has become known for, and gradually steps on the toes of the menacing killer waiting in the wings. There's even some gunplay, which is over entirely too quickly for my tastes, and a boxing sequence that is well done.

I enjoyed seeing Quirk and Belson, seeing how Spenser shared points of view with both men, and I enjoyed seeing Rita Fiore again, though the comparison Susan did with Rita was a bit off-putting. I don't know where that came from and it went on too long and lingered more than it probably should have.

Parker introduces a lot of material in the book regarding painting and the Holocaust, though I'd thought that bit of dark history a bit too far back. He does a good enough job with it, but the exposure is mostly cursory and only tooled to serve the plot.

I sat and read the book in a single sitting, which is what happens when I usually sit down with a Spenser novel, and I was aware of how quickly the pages turned. I wasn't let down by the reading experience, but I was grimly aware that there will be no more Parker novels in the very near future.

As of this writing, I know that Sixkill is coming next year. If something isn't done, if some long-buried Spenser novel isn't uncovered, the fortieth book in the long-running series is destined to be the last.

I lament, but Philip Marlowe didn't have the literary run that Spenser did. Neither did Travis McGee or Lew Archer or Sam Spade. But I'm going to miss new Spenser books. They've been a part of my life since I found my first one in 1978.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Spotting the Fakes Oct. 29 2010
By Peter Snow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The plot of Parker's latest novel, Painted Ladies, which centres on the theft of a Dutch masterpiece, is handled with all of Parker's customary deftness, tautly maintaining the tension and interspersing typically sharp Spenserian dialogue with scenes of sudden, shocking violence. But is the new novel a success? Would we pay much attention to it if it had appeared without the context of the preceding series? The two great strengths of the earlier Spenser books - that delving into Spenser's own persona and also into the layers of American society - are largely missing. Despite its Jewish elements the novel makes no real attempt to penetrate the cultural and moral maze of Jewish America. And perhaps it would be unrealistic and over-demanding to expect it.

However there are characteristic and welcome Parker touches, such as his sympathy for the young and vulnerable, which typically even extends as far as the villains. Even the bad guy Herzberg started out with good intentions and, as Susan points out in the closing pages, his descent into crime was in part driven by the historical damage inflicted on him and his family.

Also characteristic is Parker's merciless skewering of the phoneyness and pomposity of academe. What the novel does succeed in doing is to explore and link various kinds of deception and bad faith. Its dominant theme is fraudulence and inauthenticity, themes that perhaps spoke particularly to Parker in age. The `painted ladies' are not just the figures in the genuine and fake paintings but false-seeming characters. No-one is as they seem. Set against their falseness is Spenser's gritty integrity - but even Spenser's occasional attempts to masquerade as a cop in order to get information is emphasised in order to underscore the central theme.

In this new novel Spenser stands somewhat apart as a character. He makes clear his determination to solve the mystery entirely through his own efforts in an attempt to prove and justify himself. Those familiar cops, Quirk , Belson and Healy, put in an appearance, but not Hawk, apparently undertaking a CIA mission in central Asia, and other `friendly' villains - Vinnie, Chollo, etc - are similarly absent. Susan lends emotional and analytical support but is also much more unobtrusive than usual.

Not only does Spenser stand in greater isolation but also in a more retrospective light. It may be the effect of hindsight in the wake of Parker's death, but there seems something nostalgic and, one might add, almost terminal, about the figure of Spenser in this novel. Did Parker, one wonders, have the sense of an ending for Spenser and perhaps also for himself? Apparently there are two more works in the posthumous pipeline - an as yet untitled `Spenser holiday' novel due shortly, and finally Sixkill, scheduled for May next year. It will be interesting to see what further they can add to Parker's notable canon.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If this is the conclusion of the series, longtime fans of Parker should say "Bravo." Oct. 13 2010
By Bookreporter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
PAINTED LADIES opens with the Boston PI with no first name, Spenser, wise-cracking with a potential client who has arrived in his Boylston Street office in need of help. Many of these novels have started in this office the same way. But this time a priceless painting has been stolen from The Hammond Museum, and Dr. Ashton Prince needs to hire Spenser to accompany him and provide security during the ransom exchange.

Simple and familiar enough. But readers and longtime fans know that there is nothing ordinary about this 38th Spenser novel. This is the first book released in the series since Robert B. Parker's death in January. Hence, it might be what we hoped we would never have to read: the last Spenser story. Befitting the author called the dean of American crime fiction, there was a little mystery surrounding the announcement of his passing. It was mentioned that Parker had completed several unpublished works before his death. Two of those books have already come out this year: SPLIT IMAGE, a Jesse Stone novel, was published in February, and BLUE-EYED DEVIL, a Virgil Cole western, arrived last spring. So there is no mention if PAINTED LADIES will be the last adventure for Spenser. We will have to wait and see.

At the risk of reading too much into it, this book has a valedictory feel to it. Can a great writer and artist sense when his greatest literary creation is reaching the end of the road? Well, Spenser shows no signs of aging here. He has not seemingly aged a day or lost a step since his first appearance in THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT in 1973. But there is an unavoidable sense of mortality in these pages.

First the bad news. Longtime fans will be disappointed that Hawk is not present here at the possible end of the series. When the story starts, he is off in Central Asia working for the "Gray Man," the CIA agent who nearly killed Spenser once. So with Hawk off presumably working as a professional government assassin, the bulk of PAINTED LADIES features Spenser and the love of his life, Susan. But the book delivers everything else we expect from a Spenser story, such as the crisp dialogue and short chapters. The joy of these novels has really never been about solving the mystery. Nor were they hard-boiled noir fiction. The fun was to spend time with Spenser, to be the fly on the wall observing a knight errant in the modern world. For in his decency, strength and taste --- here we find that he knows Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts" --- Spenser reassured us in an ever-changing world that the good guys can still win in the end, at least once in a while.

So what's different about this story? The ransom exchange for the painting goes wrong, and Spenser's client is blown up by a bomb in front of his eyes. Of course, he cannot let it go. He feels responsible for not doing his job of protecting Dr. Prince or the painting. Or, as Captain Healy, another series regular, says, "And he won't let go until he makes this right." Nobody involved --- not the museum or insurance company or the dead man's wife --- seems very interested in making it right, which simply makes Spenser push harder. Twice, he comes within seconds of being killed. And without Hawk to watch his back, it is simply plain luck that keeps our hero alive.

Throughout the series, Spenser has dealt with killers and thugs, but there is something different this time. These killers are professional, with military links tracking back to the Middle East. And it is almost as if the terror of the improvised explosive devise (IED), a direct consequence of our invasion of Iraq, has now come home to haunt Spenser. No, this story has nothing to do with America's current wars, and the politics here traces back to the hatreds of the mid-20th century. But Spenser and Susan seem to have a sense that it all could end in an instant, which of course it did last January in real life.

"I couldn't bare it if they killed you," Susan tells him at one point. And Spenser, being Spenser, simply grins at her and says, "Me, either." So, of course, Spenser uses himself as bait to break the case. And he takes the precaution of writing down all the details of the case and mailing it to Healy to be opened should anything happen to him. He says, "Expect the best...Plan for the worst." Healy responds, "Well, at least I'll have a keepsake."

What results is a Spenser book that builds with tension and foreboding right up until the end. And if this is the conclusion of the series, longtime fans of Parker should say "Bravo." We have marked the autumns of our lives with a new installment in the series like clockwork each and every year for decades. And we have witnessed and enjoyed one of the greatest fictional creations in American literature.

Writers such as Hammett, Chandler and Ross MacDonald created the fictional PI in the mid-years of the American century. Then, when it seemed that noir had become a tired cliché and the optimism of that century was shaken by war abroad and upheaval at home, along came Spenser. (Oh, by the way, Parker teases us about the first name here when Spenser is asked for it by somebody. He tells them. But not us!) We can take comfort in the fact that these books will be read for as long as the works of the earlier masters of mystery are read. Plus, we can go back to the beginning and enjoy them all over again.

Parker writes in PAINTED LADIES, "It had snowed during the night, and the world looked very clean, which I knew it not to be. But illusion is nice sometimes." It sure is. Thank you, Robert B. Parker, for the great reads.

--- Reviewed by Tom Callahan
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars STELLAR NARRATION OF THIS SPENSER NOVEL Dec 8 2010
By Gail Cooke - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
Have to admit it - seeing the name Joe Mantegna on an audio book sells me immediately. His incredibly compelling reading of Boardwalk Empire is one of my all-time favorites and the same can be said of PAINTED LADIES.

A 40 year show business veteran he is an accomplished, versatile actor as evidenced in over 100 films (The Godfather Part 3, Forget Paris, etc.) In addition, his television appearances have garnered critical praise (The Rat Pack, The Last Don. Criminal Minds).

This wealth of experience is obvious in his stellar narration of what regrettably is one of the last Robert Parker Spenser novels. Mr. Parker will be greatly missed, and I join millions of others in remembering him for the many hours of listening/reading pleasure his books have brought.

In his inimitable way Parker grabs us from the beginning with PAINTED LADIES. Spenser has agreed to guard art professor Ashton Prince during a ransom payoff - thieves are being paid for the return of a stolen painting. As it turns out Prince really needed a guard as he's blown to bits during the procedure.

We all know that Spenser can't let that pass so he determines to find out exactly who stole the painting, why the ransom wasn't simply accepted and the painting returned, and why and by whom Prince was so explosively dispatched.

We're treated to the return of some of the characters we've learned to appreciate in previous Spenser tales as well as some intricate sleuthing on Spenser's part.

As I understand it there is one more Spenser novel due out next year. Meanwhile, enjoy PAINTED LADIES and the narration of Joe Mantegna.

Highly recommended.

- Gail Cooke
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