The Professional; or, back on solid ground with Robert B. Parker

December 18, 2009 at 2:44 am (Book review, books, Mystery fiction)

Thank goodness for The Professional!

Why do I say this? Because for me, its immediate predecessor was unreadable. Right at the beginning of Rough Weather, there’s a horrible shoot-out. Susan is taken prisoner and Spenser on his white charger must ride to the rescue of his Lady Love. The whole set-up was grim and brutal, with a hint of cliche thrown in – definitely not what I am accustomed to in my beloved Spenser mysteries. I read these books to be pleasantly entertained, to spend time in the Boston area, one of my favorite locales, with the gently wise-cracking detective, his long time lover, the enigmatic Hawk, Vinnie the pragmatic enforcer, and others. Oh yes – there’s Rita Fiore, the crackerjack lawyer with great legs that she takes care in displaying. Rita would love to ensnare Spenser, to be his Belle Dame Sans Merci, but she cannot succeed…no, never…because of SPENSER’S UNWAVERING DEVOTION TO SUSAN.

What is The Professional about? It seems that a smooth operator with the unlikely name of Gary Eisenhower has been bedding various wealthy young ladies. The source of the wealth enjoyed by these women can invariably be traced to the impressive portfolio of a much older husband. These men are proud of their lovely young wives and allow them a certain latitude in how they spend their time. But this latitude does not extend to down-and-dirty sleepovers with scum like Eisenhower. So when the said Eisenhower demands money in exchange for silence about amorous  encounters with the said wives, they are, of course, outraged, not to mention terrified. Four of them band together, hire an attorney, and engage Spenser’s services. His task: to make Gary Eisenhower go away, in return for which he will be handsomely rewarded. Seems a fairly straightforward proposition, right? Only of course, it isn’t.

Now some of this is plausible; other parts are farfetched, but all of it is in the spirit of good, if not exactly clean, fun. In other words, a welcome return to form for this long running series. (The Professional is Parker’s thirty-eighth Spenser novel.)

The one aspect of this series that does have me clenching my teeth at times is the constantly at-the-boiling-point nature of the sex life so richly enjoyed by Spenser and Susan. There  are times when one would like to feel the effect of the passage of time on these two, who, while fiercely and monogamously devoted to each other, are not only not married but not even living together, their one experiment in cohabitation having ended with their retreating in relief to their respective domiciles.

And yet…

“When Susan made love she went deep inside someplace. She didn’t withdraw. It was just the intensity of er focus that rendered everything except the lovemaking irrelevant.I liked to look at her then, her eyes closed, her face perfectly still, calm in contrast to what we were both feeling and doing. The event was busy enough so I couldn’t look for very long, but when we were done and I was looking down at her, after a time she opened her eyes and looked at me and I could see her slowly refocusing, swimming back to the surface from wherever she had been. It was always a moment like no other.


First of all, give Parker credit for writing here with restrained grace and utter seriousness. And what can one say about Susan, a (beautiful of course) psychotherapist with a Harvard PhD who’s also great in bed? She’s got it all, and he’s got her – a dream lover for a very lucky guy (who knows it).


In a new anthology called Line-Up, Otto Penzler asks writers such as Parker, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and Colin Dexter to write a brief biography or profile of their respective series characters. For his segment, Parker sets up a neat little scenario in which Spenser is being interviewed by Amy, a friend of Susan’s. Amy is working on a book, possibly to be called Men Who Dare. It will consist of “…series of profiles of men who are strong and tough and do dangerous work. Mountain climbers, Navy Seals, policemen, firemen.” It’s Susan who suggests Spenser as a possible subject for her friend’s inquiries.

Spenser immediately fires back: “Amy’s looking  for sexual splendor as well?”

Obviously he just can’t help himself!


  1. Best books of 2009: my own favorites « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] by P.D. James Blackout by Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza Wycliffe and the Tangled Web by W.J.  Burley The Professional by Robert B. Parker Hit and Run by Lawrence […]

  2. Books to talk about – a personal view « Books to the Ceiling said,

    […] & Pascoe novels – Reginald Hill The Pure in Heart – Susan Hill The Godwulf Manuscript and The Professional – Robert B. Parker The Remains of an Altar – Phil Rickman The Chameleon’s Shadow – Minette […]

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