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Back Story by Robert B. Parker
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Back Story (2003)

by Robert B. Parker

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Spenser (30)

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For six Krispy Kreme donuts, Spenser agrees to find out who killed the mother of Paul's friend, Daryl, during a bank robbery 28 years ago. He gets help from friends in the Boston Police Department and the FBI, who are interested in an official coverup that they can't investigate, but Spenser can. Even after Daryl decides that she doesn't want to learn any more, because Spenser's and eventually Susan's lives are threatened if he continues to ask questions, he realizes that they will remain in danger until he gets answers and. And so he continues to pry in Boston and California and Paradise, home of Jesse Stone.

The bank robbery, committed by a group calling themselves the Dread Scott Brigade, reminded me of a crime committed with help from two Brandeis students in the Waltham Group, a community service organization, in 1970. Hawk mentions that he is dating someone from Brandeis. ( )
  raizel | Aug 16, 2015 |
I hate to say it but some of these Spensers are becoming much of a muchness. I liked it and the suprising drop in of Jesse Stone was unexpected but there was a curious sameness to it. Perhaps it is good that I only have a few to go.
  amyem58 | Jul 15, 2014 |
Received via Member Giveaway.

While I had been familiar with the Spenser 'world' via the TV series a few years ago, I had not read any of the novels prior to Back Story.

The book may not be to everyone's tastes, but I found I liked it and it reminded me what I liked about the series.

It had a couple twists and turns, but, overall, it hearkens back (for me at least) to the nitty-gritty type detective novels and that is a major selling point for me. ( )
  strogan | Apr 29, 2014 |
This was the first book by Robert B. Parker that I have read. (He has written some seventy of them.) Parker came highly recommended: University of Chicago professors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein highly praised Parker’s books in their trail blazing book Nudge.

The protagonist of Back Story, Spenser, is a Boston based private eye who loves dogs. He also has a very nice psychologist girlfriend and an extremely tough Afro-American friend (Hawk), who sometimes serves as a body guard for Spenser. Hawk served in the French Foreign Legion and was in combat overseas. Now he is a "Gun for Hire" who met Spenser in a boxing match.

Spenser is pretty tough - he’s an ex-boxer and ex-cop, but he’s probably not as tough as Hawk or Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. He is, however, more literate and witty than Reacher. And unlike most fictional private eyes, Spenser gets along well with the local constabulary, who are happy to have him consult with them.

The story itself involves Spenser’s efforts to solve a thirty year old murder as a favor for an old friend. Well, maybe not just a favor since Spencer is paid six Krispy Kreme donuts (which were not readily available in Boston at the time) for his Herculean efforts. The friend who asks the favor is asking it on behalf of his colleague, Daryl Silver, an actress whose mother was killed in a Boston bank robbery in 1974. Daryl wants closure but - semi-spoiler alert! - not all the bad guys get their comeuppance.

Evaluation: This series is, so far, a delight. The repartee between Spenser and Hawk had me laughing out loud. The writing is spare and taut; my favorite kind, especially for this genre.

I read this book in a day and half, and I enjoyed it so much that I immediately read another book by Parker in 2 days. Since it is only escape reading, I can’t give it more than 3.5 stars, but it is a good 3.5 stars.

(JAB) ( )
  nbmars | Nov 7, 2013 |
Amazon.com Review In this 30th entry in one of mystery fiction's longest-running and best-loved __). Her mother was slain by leftist radicals at a bank holdup in 1974, and now she wants to know who fired the shot. As Spenser digs into the past, he soon learns that powerful people on both sides of the law want the case left alone--badly enough to kill. These death threats provide a fine excuse for Hawk, Spenser's extremely scary (yet sensitive) bad-guy pal, to tag along in nearly every scene as bodyguard. The interaction of the two friends is one of this series's familiar pleasures, as is the presence of Susan Silverman, Spenser's longtime love interest. Another pleasure is Parker's stripped-down prose, a marvel of craftsmanship as smooth as 18-year-old Scotch. (Plus we get the first meeting between Spenser and Jesse Stone, hero of Back Story is excellently prepared comfort food, even if it isn't five-star cuisine. --Nicholas H. Allison From Publishers Weekly Spenser's respectable 30th outing (he debuted 30 years ago in The Godwulf Manuscript) finds the veteran Boston PI teaming briefly with Jesse Stone, the cop hero of a newer Parker series (Death in Paradise, etc.). The move works because Parker plays it low-key, presenting Stone as just one of many characters who cross Spenser's path as the PI-hired by a friend of his adoptive son, Paul, for the princely sum of six Krispy Kremes-digs into the 28-year-old murder of a woman during a bank robbery; the friend is the slain woman's daughter and wants closure. Before Spenser bumps into Stone, the top cop in Paradise, Mass., he connects the killing to the daughter of big time Boston mobster Sonny Karnofsky, an old foe. When Spenser won't back off, Karnofsky threatens Spenser's girlfriend, Susan, then orders a hit on the PI. Enter as protection longtime sidekick Hawk; other series vets make appearances too on Spenser's behalf, including cops Belsen and Quirk and shooter Vinnie Morris. An interesting new character, a Jewish FBI agent, also helps out. The repartee between Spenser and Hawk is fast and funny; the sentiment between Spenser and Susan and the musings about Spenser's code are only occasionally cloying; and there's a scattering of remarkable action scenes including a tense shootout in Harvard Stadium. Series fans will enjoy this mix of old and new, but the title kind of says it all: this series, probably the finest and most influential PI series since Chandler, could use some forward momentum.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. ( )
  Hans.Michel | Sep 13, 2013 |
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Robert B. Parkerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Mantegna, JoeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0425194795, Mass Market Paperback)

In this 30th entry in one of mystery fiction's longest-running and best-loved series, Spenser--the tough yet sensitive Boston private eye with no first name--takes on an unsolved murder nearly three decades old. The client, an actress, is a friend of Paul Giacomin, Spenser's surrogate son (who first appeared in 1981's Early Autumn). Her mother was slain by leftist radicals at a bank holdup in 1974, and now she wants to know who fired the shot. As Spenser digs into the past, he soon learns that powerful people on both sides of the law want the case left alone--badly enough to kill.

These death threats provide a fine excuse for Hawk, Spenser's extremely scary (yet sensitive) bad-guy pal, to tag along in nearly every scene as bodyguard. The interaction of the two friends is one of this series's familiar pleasures, as is the presence of Susan Silverman, Spenser's longtime love interest. Another pleasure is Parker's stripped-down prose, a marvel of craftsmanship as smooth as 18-year-old Scotch. (Plus we get the first meeting between Spenser and Jesse Stone, hero of another Parker series.) Alas, the whole enterprise feels a little tired. The plot never generates much sustained suspense, and the author's adoration for his central characters renders them at times almost cartoonesque. Still, Back Story is excellently prepared comfort food, even if it isn't five-star cuisine. --Nicholas H. Allison

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Thirty years after an unsolved bank robbery leaves a woman dead, Paul Giacomin, whom Spenser regards like a son, and Daryl Gordon, the son of the robbery victim, turn to Spenser to seek out clues about the crime.

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