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5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like!!!
Robert Parker continues to keep Spenser fresh, energetic and fun to read.
Thirtysome novels into the series, "Back Story" finds Spenser and Hawk looking into a twenty-eight year old murder for a friend of a friend---the victim's daughter.
As they attempt to connect whatever dots they can assemble, the first missing link is the FBI report on the case. Next thing...
Published on Jan. 11 2004 by nobizinfla

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Tired setup, but still some sparks
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...
Published on July 10 2004 by Dangle's girl


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3.0 out of 5 stars Tired setup, but still some sparks, July 10 2004
By 
Dangle's girl (Astoria, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Back Story (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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4.0 out of 5 stars Parker improves with age, May 7 2004
By 
David W. Nicholas (Van Nuys, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Back Story (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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3.0 out of 5 stars Parker's Back, May 7 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Back Story (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. But may I suggest here that a "willing suspension of disbelief" is more than appropriate. We may all be aging, but Spenser doesn't really have to, unless we insist on it. Rex Stout's Archie Goodwin would have been in a wheelchair in real time during many of his most useful flirtations. Nero Wolfe himself would have been about 112 years old when he solved his last cases. Sherlock Holmes could not actually have dealt both with Victorian hounds and the Norden Bombsite in the same adult lifetime. I think that, along with Parker, we should make no more than a gentle reference to Spenser's age, and then leave it alone. If we lean on it too much, Spenser may retire, and I, for one, am not ready.
In "Back Story" Parker brings down barriers between story lines, and even across series. It is very appealing to have two heavy-weight thugs who tried to kill Spenser in "Pastime" sitting on the steps of Susan's classy house to guard her. And Parker has Spenser work with Jesse Stone in this one, so we get to see Jesse through Spenser's eyes. I'd very much like to know how Spenser looks to Jesse. And, hey, Sunny works in Boston. There are all sorts of possibilities.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Got Two Hours to Kill?, April 22 2004
By 
Patrick Burnett "penngos" (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back Story (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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3.0 out of 5 stars Summertime Read, April 13 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Back Story (Hardcover)
Remember, summertime is coming and this is a good pool or beach book in the classic Robert Parker style. Easy to pick up and put down - it is a relaxing, non-stressful read.
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2.0 out of 5 stars annoying repartee, March 10 2004
By 
This review is from: Back Story (Mass Market Paperback)
This was the first Parker book I ever read. I picked it up in an airport out of desperation when I had nothing left to read.
While I liked it enough to read it through, and the story moved along, I found myself increasingly annoyed by the dialog. Every other line of banter spoken by the characters is a clever little quip. It's like they're all trying to be funny--all the time. It gets old quickly and has the effect of making each character sound exactly the same. They're all witty and full of one-liners.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Don't bother, March 9 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Back Story (Mass Market Paperback)
If I could have given this story zero stars I would have. The story wasn't interesting and the characters were flat. Hell after thirty books you would think that they would get better. The average chapter length is only two and a half pages, making it difficult to really get into the story. I have read reviews from past novels that said that Parker is the heir to that icon of the hard-boiled dectective story, Raymond Chandler, but even Chandler had more than two pages per chapter. Marlowe and the supporting cast in all of Chandler's books are more interesting than any in this book. For some reason I felt compelled to finish the book but it was a struggle. I just couldn't get into the story. I will have to try some of Parker's other, non Spenser stories. Hopefully they will redeem him in my mind. Don't bother purchasing this book it isn't worth the money, or the time really.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What's not to like!!!, Jan. 11 2004
By 
nobizinfla "nobizinfla" (Windermere, Florida USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Back Story (Hardcover)
Robert Parker continues to keep Spenser fresh, energetic and fun to read.
Thirtysome novels into the series, "Back Story" finds Spenser and Hawk looking into a twenty-eight year old murder for a friend of a friend---the victim's daughter.
As they attempt to connect whatever dots they can assemble, the first missing link is the FBI report on the case. Next thing you know, "government men" try to persuade Spenser to take a powder. Hmmm???
Shortly thereafter some not-so-friendly mobster types pass a similar message Spenser's way.
These "suggestions" merely strengthen Spenser's resolve and makes him dig deeper. Current members of the Boston PD and the FBI's Boston office are more than interested and do not inhibit the intrepid Spenser.
The usual crisp repartee between Spenser and Hawk, lively dialogue, a colorful supporting cast and a cameo appearance by Jesse Stone highlight the story.
Another highly entertaining, most enjoyable weekend diversion.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Formidable Duo, Dec 19 2003
By 
Loren D. Morrison "amateur_reviewer" (Los Angeles County, U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back Story (Hardcover)
Sometimes it's lucky to be a "Johnny-Come-Lately." My reason for saying this is that I am not encumbered by the history of something like 30 previous Spenser novels. I have read 3 of them, just enough to become familiar with Spenser, Hawk, and Susan, but not so many that they have become stale characters, or that Parker's plots have become repetitive.
Any number of previous reviews have discussed the plot in great detail. In order not to be repetitious, my review will just discuss the plot in barest outline form and then will talk about the main protagonists, their interactions and characteristics.
The plot: Spenser takes on a case for a young actress who wants to find out who killed her mother in a bank hold-up some 28 years earlier. In spite of a cold trail, missing documents,and threats on his life, Spenser, with the physical support of his friend, Hawk, and the emotional and analytical support of his lover, Susan, soon finds out enough to make his investigation dangerous to both the FBI, and the most powerful mob figure in Boston, thus making it dangerous to Spenser. It also turns out that what he is uncovering is NOT what his client wants to hear. For the final outcome of this case, I guess that you'll just have to read the book.
Now for the promised character studies: Spenser and his ally, Hawk, form quite a duo. They are both in superb physical condition and can handle anyone who tries to intimidate them. Spenser, alone can handle (read manhandle) at least two or three assailants by himself. So, for that matter, can Hawk.
Together they can out think, out strategize, and out shoot just about anyone. In at least one case, where Spenser is caught off guard, he also proves that he can outrun just about anyone before turning the tables on them.
Hawk and Spenser are not just dumb mugs, between them they can quote from Shakespeare, are students of ancient and modern history, and have a philosophical bent.
Susan provides a softer side, but only when softness is appropriate. She is supportive even when Spenser and Hawk need to kill, as long as the killing is necessary to save their own lives.
To give Spenser and Hawk credit, they'd rather work out an amicable settlement than to resort to violence, if, of course, their adversaries are amenable to a peaceful settlement.
If you like your Private Investigators to be men of terse dialog (a la Hemingway), with a touch of introspection thrown in, I think that you'll really enjoy this novel.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Better Than Usual, Dec 2 2003
By 
Richard A. Mitchell "Rick Mitchell" (candia, new hampshire United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Back Story (Hardcover)
When one picks up a Spenser novel one used to expect clever dialogue, likeable characters and a good story line. A few years ago, I thought the series got stale and stopped reading them. This book was a pleasnat surprise because it was as sharp and fresh as the early Parker/Spenser mysteries. The characters have again begun to evolve and have some depth. Back Story has a better than usual plot which brings it to the four star level.
Spenser is asked to solve a 28 year old murder and bank heist(for the fee of 6 Krispy Kreme donuts). Hawk is in on the action early and Susan is always there as well - as well as a new Pearl. Spenser has to go back to the hippy/radical world of the early seventies and the question and investigate the players who have now grown to middle age. The plot has some clever twists and interesting characters woven in to give it depth. The mobsters are in on action to add the requisite danger and intrigue.
I recommend this to any Spenser fan as the best in the series in a while. It was good to enjoy these characters once again after a hiatus. I recommend it to any mystery fan who enjoys witty dialogue and excellent repartee among characters.
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