Spenser’s last case.
The opening sequence, in which Spenser (The Professional, 2009, etc.) makes a monkey out of a college professor who clearly needs him more than Spenser needs the professor, hearkens back to the Boston private eye’s very first case (The Godwulf Manuscript, 1973). This time, however, Parker adds a pleasing twist. As forensic art consultant and all-around twit Dr. Ashton Prince returns from his rendezvous with the thieves ransoming the 17th-century canvas Lady with a Finch to the waiting Spenser, whom he’d hired to accompany him on the drop-off, the package he’s picked up in exchange for the ransom explodes, killing him. Although Spenser feels honor-bound to avenge his late client, nobody wants his help or is interested in talking to him, and the more he finds out about Prince, the less he likes him. Working patiently, Spenser breaks down the defenses of insurance-resolution specialist Winifred Minor; her daughter Missy, one of the many coeds Prince seems to have pursued; Prince’s daffy widow, oh-so-sensitive poet Rosalind Wellington; and Morton Lloyd, attorney to the museum from which the painting was stolen. Only after several more people have died does he realize how tenaciously the painted lady’s provenance is entangled in the Holocaust, so that the case becomes, as he tells his ladylove Dr. Susan Silverman, “the most Jewish thing I’ve ever dealt with.”
The yawning gap between the customary attitudinizing and the serious issues the tale raises make this far from Spenser’s finest hour, yet one no serious fan will think of missing.