What mystery fan hasn't
heard by now that Robert B. Parker created his Sunny Randall series expressly for good friend Helen Hunt, with an eye toward the actress playing the petite blonde investigator on the silver screen? Although the series has been touted as a radical departure for Parker (a woman in the lead, by gum!), so strongly do Boston PI Sunny and her cohorts resemble Boston PI Spenser and his pals that the movie's casting director might prefer a blond-wigged Robert Urich. But Parker's quick quips, droll wit, and staccato dialogue are all on display in the latest Randall novel, Perish Twice
, so in spite of the reworked characters, there's still plenty to enjoy.
When radical feminist Mary Lou Goddard hires Sunny to protect her from a stalker, Sunny accepts the case with some reluctance. After all, Goddard detests Rosie, Sunny's bull terrier, canine vacuum, and stakeout companion ("Rosie was in the passenger seat, staring out the side window, alert for the appearance of a strange dog at whom she could gargle ferociously."). It doesn't take Sunny long to track down and confront Lawrence Reeves, a particularly pestilential human being. But pestilence is no excuse for murder, so when Reeves and Gretchen Crane, one of Goddard's colleagues, are both found dead, Sunny dives into the murky waters of Boston's prostitution industry, where Reeves was a client and Gretchen was trying to unionize the workers. Politics and sexuality can be a nasty tangle, and the unraveling threads lead straight to mobster Tony Marcus's door. Tony may appreciate Sunny's sharp wit, but business is business: interference can--and does--lead to a bullet with her name on it. And as if all of this weren't enough, Sunny's sister and her best friend are in the throes of nasty divorces. Luckily, the leap from PI to marital counselor is well within Sunny's abilities.
While there's no doubt that rabid Parker fans will snap up anything the author turns out (and with reason), Perish Twice may be more appealing to new readers, for whom Sunny's charm will carry none of the uneasy echoes of private investigators past. --Kelly Flynn
From Publishers Weekly
Boston PI Sunny Randle, given her second outing here, is to Parker's veteran PI Spenser as Pepsi is to Coke: a bit lighter and sweeter, but still the real deal. And in the literary equivalent of a blind taste test, you'd be hard pressed to tell them apart; this second Sunny novel, even more than her first (Family Honor), is a Spenser book wearing a skirt. About now, the author's fans might be yearning for a change of pace of the sort Parker has offered in his stand-alones and his Jesse Stone series; still, what's here is quite good. The novel revolves around assorted couples' dysfunctional liaisons. In one significant subplot, Sunny's obnoxious and spoiled sister, Elizabeth, hires Sunny to trail her husband, whom she suspects of having an affair; when Sunny catches the lothario, Elizabeth leaves him and begins to sleep around. In another, Sunny's old therapist pal, Julie, is having troubles with her beloved and is also starting to date. And in the novel's main plotline, a lesbian activist who hires Sunny to protect her from a stalker also turns out to be stuck in a web of infidelityAand murder. Two killingsAa man Sunny pinpoints as the stalker, and a woman who works for the activistAeventually bring Sunny into the orbit of scary black gangster Tony Marcus, who runs prostitution in Boston. The scenes involving Sunny, Marcus and Marcus's underlings crackle with tension and sometimes violence; the rest of the novel presents a wholly absorbing puzzle of confused motives and whodunits that Sunny picks at as doggedly as any PI going. With its smooth blend of mystery, action and psychological probings, this is yet another first-rate, though not innovative, offering from a reliable old master. 15-city author tour. (Oct.)
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