Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


Now and Then by Robert B. Parker








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All the energy in Robert B. Parker’s latest Spenser novel, Now and Then, centers around Spenser protecting Susan. After a client who suspected his wife was cheating on him is killed, Spenser keeps working the case without pay, because that what Spenser does: he rights wrongs. What Parker does best here and elsewhere is character and dialogue. With Spenser and Susan, the dialogue is especially rich, and these and the other characters are fully formed. Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 2, pp. 8-10:

It was late September on Cape Cod, and the summer people were gone. Susan and I liked to go down for a couple of nights in the off-season, before things shut down for the winter. Which is how we ended up on a Sunday night, eating cold plum soup and broiled Cape scallops, and drinking a bottle of Gewurztraminer at Chillingsworth in Brewster.

"When someone says that their mate is not interested in sex," Susan said, "all they can really speak to with authority is that their mate is not interested in sex with them."

"I've never made that statement," I said.

"And with good reason," Susan said.

"It sounds like sex to me," I said.

"And it sounds like he fears that it is," Susan said.

"He fears something," I said.

"And he's reticent about himself," she said. "Didn't want to tell you where he lived. Won't tell you where he works."

"Lot of people are embarrassed about things like this," I said.

"Are you?" she said.

"No more than you are, shrink girl."

She smiled and sipped her wine.

She said, "We both uncover secrets, I guess."

"And chase after hidden truths," I said.

"And people are often better for it," she said.

"But not always."

"No," she said. "Not always."

We ate our plum soup happily and sipped our wine. "You don't like divorce cases, do you?" she said.

"Make me feel like a Peeping Tom," I said.

Susan smiled, which is a luminous sight.

"Is that different than a private eye?" she said.

"I hope so," I said.

"You feel intrepid, chasing bad guys," Susan said.


"And sleazy, chasing errant mates."


"But you do it," she said.

"It's work."

"It's good work," Susan said. "The pain of emotional loss is intense."

"I recall," I said.

"Yes," she said. "We both do. Half my practice comes from people like that."

"Despite similarities, our practices are not identical."

"Mine requires less muscle," she said. "But the point is, you can rescue people in different ways. Leaping tall buildings at a single bound is not the only way."

"I know," I said.

"Which is why you'll work divorce cases," she said, "even though they make you feel sleazy." "Heroism has its downside," I said.

"It has its upside too," Susan said.

Susan's eyes had a small glitter.

"Speaking of which ..." I said.

"Could we maybe finish dinner?" she said.

"Of course," I said. "The upside is patient."

"And frequent," Susan said.


Snappy dialogue with an undercurrent of affection. The fact that in this novel Spenser has to use all the help he can get to protect Susan makes readers care all the more. Now and Then is Parker doing what he does best.


Steve Hopkins, December 20, 2007



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the January 2008 issue of Executive Times


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