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Spare Change [Hardcover]

Robert Parker
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 5 2007 Sunny Randall Novels
Boston P.I. Sunny Randall joins forces with the most important man in her life-her father-to crack a thirty-year-old case.

Hi Phil, You miss me? I got bored, so I thought I'd reestablish our relationship. Give us both something to do in our later years. Stay tuned. Spare Change

When a serial murderer dubbed "The Spare Change Killer" by the Boston press surfaces after three decades in hiding, the police immediately seek out the cop, now retired, who headed the original task force: Phil Randall. As a sharp-eyed investigator and a doting parent ("You're smart. You're tough. You, too, are a paradigm of law enforcement perfection, and you're my kid"), Phil calls on his daughter, Sunny, to help catch the criminal who eluded him so many years before.

Sunny is certain that she's found her man after interviewing just a handful of suspects. Though she has no evidence against Bob Johnson, she trusts her intuition. And she knows the power she has over him-she can feel the skittishness and sexual tension that he radiates when he's around her-but persuading her father and the rest of the task force is a different story.

When the killer strikes a second and third time, the murders take a macabre turn, as the victims each eerily resemble Sunny. While her father pressures her to drop the case, Sunny's need to create a trap to nab her killer grows.

In a compelling game of cat-and-mouse, Sunny uses all her skills to draw out her prey, realizing too late that she's setting herself up to become the next victim.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

At the start of Parker's engaging sixth Sunny Randall novel (after Blue Screen), the cop-turned-PI helps her father track down a Boston serial killer whose depredations begin again after a 20-year hiatus. The "spare change" killer executes victims with a single shot to the head, leaving three coins near the body. Sunny's dad, Phil, headed the old task force formed to catch the killer, who wrote Phil taunting letters as the killings piled up. A new killing and a fresh letter to Phil have him and Sunny serving as consultant and assistant respectively to a new task force. Gutsy Sunny takes the lead in identifying the most likely suspect, and then in playing him dangerously to get hard evidence. Parker's signature bantering byplay and some borrowings of characters from other series (notably Susan Silverman from the Spenser novels) will delight fans. The outcome is never in doubt, but Parker hits most of the right notes, and there's still ingenuity to his cat-and-mouse. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The victims, dispatched with a single shot to the back of the head, are not assaulted or molested in any way and share no defining characteristics. Their bodies are decorated with a few coins. Most troubling to the Boston PD is the time elapsed between the two most recent victims: 20 years. The city was terrorized by the Spare Change killer two decades ago, and Phil Randall headed the task force that came up dry. Now he's been asked to come out of retirement to consult on the new killings. He asks his daughter, private investigator and former cop Sunny Randall, to join him. A suspect emerges, but there is no physical evidence to tie him to the killings, only Sunny's intuition. Meanwhile, Sunny's relationship with her ex-husband--for whom she still carries a torch--is moving to a new plateau as she tries to understand the family dynamics among her father, mother, sister and herself. Parker, also responsible for the classic Spenser mystery series and the Jesse Stone novels, continues to add depth to his characterization of Randall as he explores her often contradictory feelings about love. Parker's ruminations on romance are sometimes--not always--wearisome, but he never fails to entertain with humor and recurring characters whom we welcome back into our lives like old friends. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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I sat with my father at the kitchen table and looked at the old crime-scene photographs. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars New Title: Mr. Parker Disappoints Jan. 7 2008
Format:Hardcover
Let me start by admitting that I have been a life-long Robert B. Parker fan. This is the first of his books that disappoints. For a life-long mystery writer to get so sloppy is sad.

The first glaring error that whacks you on the side of the head is when Mr. Parker describes a murder weapon as a "Smith and Wesson 38" -- revolver -- and then has his characters looking for the spent cartridge, which would only be there if the weapon were an automatic. This is a sad and obvious lapse, especially for a writer who has over three decades of experience writing about such things.

There are other similar errors that I won't describe in detail since it could spoil the "plot", though I have to warn you that once you start spotting the careless errors and realize that this is just another gone-through-the-motions pot-boiler for Mr. Parker, the flame of fandom may flicker for you too.

Luckily, Amazon has many thousands of other authors and books to enjoy. My condolences to Robert B. Parker fans, and to all the unlucky people who read this book first.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Like father like daughter Aug. 7 2007
By Pol Sixe TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This book opens up Sunny's dad Phil Randall as a developed character, almost worthy of a prequel series himself. The usual Parker BPD/MSP detectives contribute also, only S & H are missing - must be on a fishing trip or something. Parker takes jabs at liberals and academics and suburban housewives but is a "cop on every corner" really the answer to crime? The story is maybe a little too quick to ID the killer with Sunny's intuition cracking the case. This is an uptick in the ongoing Sunny Randall story and shows RBP is not just mailing it in.
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4.0 out of 5 stars GRAND MASTER PARKER IS GRAND AGAIN July 15 2007
By Gail Cooke TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
While this is Parker's sixth Sunny Randall novel, first-time readers needn't be at all shy about dropping in. They'll soon feel right at home, and home is a carefully chosen word as so much of Parker's story revolves around family and the importance of familial relationships.

The banter between Sunny and her father, retired cop Phil Randall, is a joy to read. The characters are real, authentic and you'll quickly find yourself caring about each of them, even Rosie, Sunny and ex Richie's bull terrier (they share custody).

Some 20 years ago a serial killer was on the loose. Boston newspapers dubbed him the Spare Change Killer because he left three coins by his victims after shooting the unsuspecting behind the right ear. At that time Phil was the lead investigator in the case, taunted by notes from the killer. Phil doesn't much care for unsolved cases, and this one really bothered him. Now, after two decades, there's another note and another killing.

"Hi, Phil," it reads. "You miss me? I got bored, so I thought I'd reestablish our relationship. Give us both something to do in our later years. Stay tuned. Spare Change."

The original killer surfacing after all this time or a copy cat? Police immediately call upon Phil to consult on the case and he calls upon Sunny to help him. She is, of course, pleased to be asked. As she says, "I loved my father. My sister and I had competed with my mother for his attention all our lives. I was thrilled to have him sharing space with me."

Very soon the arduous task of interviewing suspects is begun, and Sunny has her eye on one man. No one agrees with her but this is a determined woman. She sets out to bait a trap for the man, little realizing the danger she's putting herself in.

As is often the case, the outcome isn't much of a surprise but it's such a pleasure getting there! For this reader, Parker is tops.

- Gail Cooke
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By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
Fans of the Sunny Randall series will find Spare Change very satisfying in terms of Sunny finding her way through ambivalence about being with Richie. There's no resolution there . . . but definite progress does occur. You could easily rename this book, Sunny's Quest for Meaning, since the book is also so much about her feelings concerning her father, mother, sister, and her friend, Julie. Much like Spenser, she also takes detecting actions that help her define what's important to her as a professional.

If you haven't read any of the Sunny Randall books before, you may feel like you've been dropped into an alien universe of psychological perspectives at times. Rather than be puzzled and annoyed by this book, I suggest you go back to the beginning and start with Family Honor.

Mystery fans who like character development will find that aspect of Spare Change nicely balances a pretty standard, and not very productive, police investigation into a serial killer. The two strands of the story nicely intertwine in a number of ways that enhance the reading experience. The book has another appealing feature, Susan Silverman and long-time police characters from the Spenser series have small roles. More than some books in the series, you feel like Sunny lives in the same Boston that Spenser does.

As the book opens, Sunny's romantic life is a mess. Richie has gotten remarried and her relationship with Jesse Stone is over because he can't get over his ex-wife and Sunny can't get over Richie. But things look up when her beloved father, Phil Randall, asks her to help him catch a serial killer who leaves three coins after execution-style killings in public places.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  69 reviews
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interior Motivations June 7 2007
By Mel Odom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
SPARE CHANGE, the sixth Sunny Randall novel, shouldn't be read as an entry to the series. Too much subtext from earlier novels is needed for the reader to competently understand all the dynamics of family and self that are going on in this one.

The plot is simple. Sunny and her dad Phil attempt to close out a cold case he had before he left the Boston Police. The case had suddenly turned hot again as a new victim is discovered. The serial killer known as Spare Change (named so because he leaves a nickel, dime, and quarter behind at each murder scene) has struck again. Phil gets called out of retirement to advise on the case and he brings his private-eye daughter with him.

The solution of the murders is the plot that drives Parker's theme: his examination of families, how they work together and how they shape the individuals within them.

On many levels, Parker succeeds admirably. Fans of the Sunny Randall series (of which I am one) will love seeing some of the changes. But a few of them, like the change with her ex-husband, comes out of left field. And that one, to a degree, gets dropped to hang around for the next book. I think the extended views into the dynamics of Sunny's family, and especially the exploration of character between father and daughter, is great and a lot of readers are going to find parallels in their own lives. Always an amazing experience for readers.

However, the story of the serial killer resonates the same theme, but misses the boat because it doesn't offer quite the same reveals.

Parker's writing is as smooth and exciting as ever. I sailed through this book and the pages kept turning. I was drawn as much by the character development and insights as I was the homicide investigation.

Parker is also cross-pollinating his series with characters from other books. Martin Quirk, who's known primarily from the Spenser novels, was present. And Dr. Susan Silverman has been a mainstay for a while in Sunny's series as her counselor. But Frank Belson, Healy, and Lee Farrell were also onboard this one for a while.

I love Parker's books even when they're more comfortable than groundbreaking. Reading one is like sitting down with a friend and catching up on events in that person's life. Long-time fans will enjoy the book and already know what the score it, but new readers would best be advised to at least have read some if not all of the other Sunny Randall novels.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Satisfying Read from Robert Parker June 6 2008
By Donald Gallinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Spare Change by Robert Parker teams up Sunny Randall and her father in a case involving a serial killer who drops coins next to the bodies of his victims. Although Parker's dialogue is always razor sharp and his characters well delineated, there's a certain perfunctory quality about the plot that perhaps comes from writing too many crime dramas over the years. You won't be disappointed by this book, but you won't necessarily remember it as one of Parker's best, either. A good airport read. You'll enjoy yourself between the soft drinks and the on board movie.

Donald Gallinger is the author ofThe Master Planets
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars What the #%$@*??? June 11 2007
By CeeCee - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Ok. I have read and enjoyed Mr. Parker's books for as long as I can remember but I am seriously wondering if writing 3 series is too much for him. What's the deal with the continuity issues???

SPOILER ALERT-PLEASE DO NOT READ BELOW IF YOU HAVE NOT YET READ THIS BOOK!!

In Blue Screen, the last Sunny Randall novel, Sunny learned that Richie's wife was PREGNANT. Now all of a sudden, Richie decides he loves Sunny and leaves his wife and there is absolutely no mention of his wife being pregnant in this book??? What the heck??? That's beyond sloppy and a slap in the face of loyal readers who deserve more respect. I am very disappointed...where oh where did the quality of A Catskill Eagle or Valediction go???
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nothing really changes much. . . July 11 2007
By Gabriela Perez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
but then, that's been the case pretty recently with the Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series.

I like Parker's writing, generally speaking. His Spenser series ranks near the top of all the series I've read, but only if I focus on the first two thirds or so of the series. Recently, I've become a bit. . .bored with Mr. Parker's series, with all of them.

This one, with a potentially-intriguing protagonist at its heart, doesn't seem to be "growing" at all. Don't misunderstand--Sunny appears to be making progress understanding herself. It's just that the dialogue and the way characters interact is stuck in some sort of holding pattern.

Here's an example for you: in Parker's novels, the characters tend to make psychological assessments and super-intuitive assessments in one-line form. There isn't a whole lot of discussion, not a whole lot of real digging into things. Sunny is seeing Susan Silverman for therapy, and Silverman's whole approach to therapy appears to be inclining her head, offering slim smiles, and teasing little questions and statements that Sunny then responds to with pretty decent insights, but there's no "there" there. Having had some therapy myself, and having spoken to others who've also been through the process, I can tell you that it seems rare to find someone who gets you to really dig into your psyche by, say, smiling at you. There's WORK involved in most therapy, or so I believe, and there doesn't appear to be any in Sunny's.

Sunny continues wanting her ex, and some changes take place on that front. Sunny does a credible job of investigating a crime, but she knows from early-on whom the killer is, so there's not much in the way of mystery or nail-biting suspense going on. And even near the end, when the killer makes a desperate attempt to escape, there's no real action there. It all seems to happen in lazy-dazy slo-mo, and it works out precisely as you'd expect.

All in all, I found this book predictable. I'm weary of characters like Sunny and of Jesse Stone as well. I liked Spenser all along because there was passion in what he did, because he made decisions I sometimes did not agree with, because his partner in detection was someone whose morality, generally speaking, was questionable, which made all their mutual activities somewhat more "grey area" than if Spenser was acting alone.

Ah, well. I must admit to still enjoying Parker's humor. Even when I'm growling over his seeming inability or unwillingness to use question marks, I still remember how many guffaws he's given me, how much enjoyment with his Spenser series.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Adios, Chico. And Julie. And Susan. And Mom. July 22 2007
By Noneofyourbiz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is an interesting story about the search for a serial killer. It's a decent story about the lengths a Daddy's Girl will go to in order to please Daddy. And it's a completely ridiculous portrait story of cartoon characters that pass for contemporary women:

Julie? Oh, puh-leeze! Sunny is Counselor Julie's best friend, Sunny is involved in a dangerous situation that puts them in peril, Julie is breaking just about every rule in the counselor's handbook. Yet in all her sessions with the Sainted Susan Silverman, Sunny never mentions any of it. Why the total disregard for her best friend Julie? And worse, Julie's innocent patients?

Dr. Susan Silverman delivers no insights during Sunny's sessions. She just nods and half-smiles at her patient. One wonders how much she charges Sunny. Sunny's fascination with her shrink is kinda weird. Sunny's heart leaps when Dr. Silverman says her name. She's thrilled when the shrink's Mona Lisa half-smile actually escalates to complete smile. We hear about Silverman's lustrous hair, her terrific body, her artfully applied makeup. I went between thinking I was reading the transcript of a therapy session and a Letter to Penthouse.

Sunny's mother has a drinking problem. Every time the family gets together, Mom gets sloshed. Dad sees this but does nothing because, I guess, love means never having to say, "stop that." Mr. and Mrs. Randall are of retirement age. All this drinking cannot be good for her liver, or her bones, or her heart. But as with Sunny and Julie, Dad says nothing. Apparently enjoying being in codependent relationships is, like crime fighting, a bond father and daughter share.

Yet I gave it two stars. I was intrigued by the Chico Zarilla subplot. I enjoyed the police work. And, when it didn't include Julie or Susan or Mom, I enjoyed the dialog.

I just wish Parker would quit trying to write women characters. I suspect he really doesn't like us much.
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