By Robert B. Parker
Thorndike Press Large Print, 2008, 329 pages
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 8, 2009
Robert B. Parker has published over fifty truly vibrant and clever books. Over half of them, like this one, have the private eye Spenser as its resourceful hero. Others include the Jesse Stone novels andSunny Randall novels, and several Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch Wild West tales, as well as other books.
Parker has a unique style. The book's dusk jacket describes it as "Razor sharp dialogue, crisply etched characters and high-wire narrative." His books have wide margins on all four sides of every page, the print is somewhat larger than in other books, he presents his tale with witty and ironic dialogue, he uses descriptions only very briefly and only if absolutely necessary for the narrative. If someone else had written the same story with all the same events, but not in Parker's unique style, the story would still be interesting, but it would lack the spirit and humor that Parker inserts into his tale.
Some readers might complain that Parker overdoes the witty remarks. Everyone but the bad characters uses them, and even they do so sometimes. No two pages go by without some clever remark. But others will enjoy the humor in them.
Another characteristic of Parker's writing that might bother some of his fans is that every main character has a spouse or significant other that committed adultery, and the reader is reminded of the affairs in each novel. In Rough Weather, the reminder is very subtle. We are told that an incident occurred when Susan was out of town and Spenser could not consult with her. However, while this may be a dissonance, dissonances are necessary to produce great music and aid in improving writings as well.
In Rough Weather, Spenser is hired by a seemingly very rich and beautiful lady to be her chaperon at her daughter's wedding. The woman does not make it clear why she hired a man like him, a man known for his strength and perseverance, and this question remains unresolved until the novel ends.
Spenser's old nemesis – the Gray Man – arrives at the wedding ceremony and uncharacteristically sprays the crowed with machine gun bullets killing many people, including the bridegroom, and kidnaps the bride. Spenser and his side kick Hawk are surprised, not only by the murder but by the way that the Gray Man acted. This is not how he behaved in the past. He is a murderer, but he is precise and subtle about it. He has no need for him to spray bullets. He is an expert shot and he hits what he wants to hit.
Spenser is fired from his job because he tries to delve into what occurred and he decides to disclose the purpose of the murders and kidnapping without pay. Spenser, as his fans know, is a "white knight," like the paladins of the age of knighthood that rode into battle to save maidens in distress. During his quest, Spenser meets with many of the people introduced in prior novels, police and criminals.
He faces some seeming imponderables. Why was he hired to attend the wedding? Is the person who hired him, the bride's mother involved? Did she want the murders and kidnapping? Is she really rich? Why did she marry so many husbands? Why were the groom and other people killed? Why was the bride kidnapped? How can he get answers to these questions?
Needless to say, Spenser is successful in producing a surprising ending, but it is no surprise that his endeavor is a delight to read.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century rational philosopher, and the co-author of a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com.