Why is somebody shooting Walter Clive's horses at Three Fillies Stables in Lamarr, Georgia? That's what toothy, patrician Walter wants the droll, hulking Boston detective Spenser to find out. Walter worries that his racetrack phenomenon Hugger Mugger, worth millions, is next. So Spenser goes south to a place where "the heat felt like it could be cut into squares and used to build a wall," as he puts it in the crisp Chandleresque lingo that made him famous in dozens of novels.
The Clive clan is one weird bunch. Take Walter's daughters, his three "fillies." Penny is like her dad, all impeccable looks and icy efficiency. Stonie and SueSue take after their sinister mom, who left the family to live with a guitarist in San Francisco and changed her name to Sherry Lark. Penny helps Dad run the business, while her soused sisters cheat on their pathetic husbands, Cord and Pud. (Pud's short for Puddle; his dad was named Poole.) As unsightly family secrets spill, Spenser feels like he's in a Tennessee Williams play. Then someone on two legs takes a bullet, and the mystery gets tense. Spenser gets plenty of sarcastic mileage out of upper-class horse-country twits, crooked security guards, dumb jocks gone to seed, and wily Southern lawyers, and the story saunters well. What's best are the endless wisecracks, the unflattering thumbnail character sketches, and sharp sentences like this one: "Like all jockeys, he was about the size of a ham sandwich, except for his hands, which appeared to be those of a stonemason." --Tim Appelo
From Publishers Weekly
Despite frequent appearances by Susan Silverman (longtime love of Boston PI Spenser) and the absence of Hawk (his enigmatic sidekick), the latest entry in Parker's estimable series is a worthy one. Missing is the sap that can stickie-up scenes between Spenser and Susan, and in Hawk's place strides a new sidekick, Tedy Sapp, who's gay and as tough as they come. Tedy's only a temp replacement, though, because the reason he's here and Hawk's not is that most of the action takes place in rural Georgia, where Tedy owns a gay bar. Spenser travels there on his own temp job--to find out who's been shooting horses at Three Fillies Stables, owned by Walter Clive, the most powerful man in the county, and to keep that someone from shooting Clive's prize thoroughbred, Hugger Mugger. Spenser roots through the highly dysfunctional family of Clive's three daughters and their husbands (one a pedophile, one a drunk), annoys Clive's security men and befriends both Tedy and the local sheriff, with whom the PI discusses doughnuts. When Clive is shot dead, Spenser is fired by the alpha daughter, only to be rehired by Clive's mistress, who believes there's more to the mayhem than horseplay. This novel offers more traditional mystery elements than many Spenser tales, although most readers will finger the prime villain way before Spenser does. The pacing is strong, the characters are fresh as dew and the prose is Parker-perfect. The Spenser-specific personal drama that drives the best of the tales is lacking, but overall, the story will fit Parker fans like an old shoe. (Apr.) FYI: Parker's most recent novel, Family Honor, will be filmed starring Helen Hunt.
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