Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Godwulf Manuscript by, Robert B. Parker

The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse.

Boston PI Spenser is hired by a university president to retrieve a priceless stolen manuscript. His first lead is a left-wing student group, whose secretary is a young woman named Terry Orchard. One night, Terry's boyfriend is murdered and she calls Spenser in a panic. Spenser now has two cases: the missing book and clearing the name of a young, frightened student.

The Godwulf Manuscript is the first Spenser book and it sets Parker up as the clear heir to the grandfathers of hardboiled detective fiction: Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald. The twisted family dynamic of the Orchards fits squarely into Macdonald's wheelhouse. Terry is a child of privilege whose parents use her has a pawn in their mannered little war. Terry rejects their wealthy lifestyle and lives the Bohemian dream with her boyfriend.  Parker also lays on the Chandlerian similes and wisecracks pretty heavily. Upon meeting a suspect's wife, Spenser muses, "She was as lean and hard as a canoe paddle, and nearly as sexy."

Sometimes the wardrobe descriptions go on too long (but they're entertaining because they're the height of 1970's fashion) and Spenser seems to wisecrack just because it's what he's supposed to do. But the framework for one of the most popular and successful detective series in history is clearly there.

The Godwulf Manuscript is a fun and entertaining read. I've waited too long between Spenser books and will definitely read more.

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