Now that his detective-hero Spenser has become such an earnest, predictable character, one looks forward to Parker's second non-Spenser novel—only to find that this short tale of obsessive-love-triumphant does little more than recycle the least attractive aspects of the Spenser persona. The narrator, whose name and plain/purple prose-style suggest a case of Hemingway-itis, is Boone Adams—an undergraduate at 1951 Colby College (Maine) who loses his virginity with a townie but falls madly in love with classmate Jennifer Grayle. And when Jennifer at last responds, dumping her latest boyfriend for Boone's devotion, "Steadiness surged through me, it suffused me, it warmed and solidified my soul and all things were possible and nothing was fearsome." Then, however, would-be writer Boone is expelled (bad grades, bad attitude), drafted to Korea, and Dear-Johnned by Jennifer, who decides to marry rich, handsome John Merchent from Cornell. "Not yet twenty-two, I had loved and lost and my life was without further purpose. And there was so much of it left, a paralyzing long time of it still to go." So, in a brief interlude reminiscent of bygone, corny Hollywood-montage, Boone goes on the skids for a few years—from job to job, across the country, boozing it up, falling apart. . . till he pulls himself together in California: he saves some money; he reads a lot; he gets into bodybuilding à la Spenser. But he never has gotten over Jennifer. (A casual girlfriend gushes: "What you are doing. . . is really quite remarkable. It is the most committed act of will I've ever seen. What you're doing. . . is you're becoming worthy of her.") And so Boone heads back East, getting assorted degrees on the campus where Jennifer and her prof-husband both teach: he quietly re-woos her, impresses her with his echt-Spenser catchwords ("autonomous," "code of behavior"). . . and wins her at last, as his prose adds some imitation-Faulkner to the imitation-Hemingway. (. . . "I felt myself unclench, and my spirit burgeoned spread throughout me and mingled with her perfume and her heat and the weakness was gone and I pressed her against me with the unbestowed strength of a silent quarter-century feeling her press back and feeling my soul begin at last to romp with hers in new created pastures where eternity shimmered before us and time, just begun, was ours forever.") Despite a few nicely wry vignettes along the way: dismayingly thin, self-indulgent work—from a gifted writer whose talent keeps seeping away into narcissism and sentimentality.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1983

ISBN: 0440146291

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 5

Smashingly suspenseful fifth in Child’s series (Running Blind, 2000, etc.) lands this British author’s rootless, laconic action hero in southwest Texas, where a femme fatale lures him into a family squabble that inevitably turns violent.

In the kind of daylight-noir setting that Jim Thompson loved, ex-military cop Jack Reacher has his thumb out on a lonely west Texas highway when he’s picked up by Carmine Greer, the Mexican-American wife of bad-ol’-boy Sloop Greer. It seems that Sloop, elder son of a white-trash-turned-oil-rich ranching dynasty, is nearing the end of a prison term for tax evasion, and Carmine, whose body Reacher sees is marked with signs of physical abuse, wants Reacher to be her bodyguard—or, failing that, kill the man in such a way that Carmine can still hold on to her terminally cute six-year-old daughter Ellie. Reacher refuses but decides to meet the folks: Rusty, Sloop’s racist, charmless mother, and Bobby, Sloop’s stupid, pugnacious brother. Meanwhile, a trio of paid assassins is littering the Texas roadside with corpses, starting with Sloop’s lawyer, Al Eugene. In a set-piece as good as anything in Elmore Leonard, Bobby sends two ranch-hands to ambush Reacher at an Abilene roadhouse filled with 20 other cowboys spoiling for a fight. Reacher walks away without a scratch, telling Bobby that his hospitalized ranch-hands have “quit.” Child twists his increasingly hokey plot into a pretzel when Sloop is found dead and Carmine confesses to killing him. Reacher just can’t believe that Carmine is guilty and teams up with Alice Aarons, a leggy Jewish lesbian fresh out of law school, who trusts him with her car, her handgun, and her life.

Child builds tension to unbearable extremes, then blows it out in sharply choreographed violence, even if his plot has more holes in it than the shirt Reacher uses for target practice.

Pub Date: July 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14726-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2001

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