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le 16 décembre 2005
"Cold Service," Robert B. Parker's thirty-second Spenser novel will inevitably and invariably be compared by fans to the twenty-fourth Spenser novel, "Small Vices." The latter was the pivotal novel where Spenser was gunned down by the shadowy assassin known as the Grey Man. It took Susan Silverman and Hawk a year to put our hero back together again so that he could take steps to even the score with his assailant. This 2005 Spenser novel begins with Hawk in the hospital, having been shot in the back three times while protecting bookie Luther Gillespie. Now it is Spenser's turn to stand by his friend and not only help him rehabilitate but also to help him even the score. However, there are some significant differences between the two similar stories
First, the rehabilitation part is greatly truncated this time around because the wounds are clearly more to Hawk's pride than his body. Second, because we are talking about Hawk we are much more on the outside than when Spenser was in the same situation. Hawk has already been shot and is talking to Spenser in the hospital when this one starts, and while we miss the action at the start Parker provides symmetry by letting us miss the action at the end as well, which tends to suggest that the action is not the point here. Third, there are significant moral dilemmas this time around. Ironically, none of them exist for Hawk but rather for Spenser, who has reservations about the killing that will be involved, and for Cecila, Hawk's current paramour, who is no where near as accepting of the way her man settles accounts as is the lovely Susan.
However, friendship outweighs moral dilemmas in Spenser's world, and the fact that the point is made several times in the novel speaks to why it seems like Parker is doing this Spenser novel by the numbers. The witty repartee between Spenser and Hawk seems like the witty repartee that we have heard before, and there really is a sense that we are going through the motions here. When we get to the point where Hawk and Spenser assemble some of their small circle of friends to help with the endeavor they really end up with nothing to do. The biggest surprise is that apparently the new person added to that roster is the Grey Man, who turns out to be the only person in the known Spenser universe who speaks Ukranian. You might anticipate that this could lead to something significant happening, but actually it is what does not happen that ends up mattering with the Grey Man.
I think that Hawk is slightly different at the end of this novel, although that may well be projection on my part. It may well be that "Cold Service" simply underscores a fundamental difference between Hawk and Spenser that we have not fully appreciated in the past, but once again that might simply be my trying to read more into this novel than is actually there. As always this Parker novel is a quick read, which makes it eminently easy to work in a chapter here and there throughout the day. It is a pleasant enough read, but given the storyline I was expecting something more than what we ended up getting.