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Bookends: Spare Change Clues Baffle the Police October 24, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Spare Change Clues Baffle the Police

By Dan Davidson

July 28, 2012

– 839 words –


Spare Change

By Robert B. Parker


336 pages



Audiobook from

Random House Audio

Narrated by Kate Burton

5 hrs and 34 mins



Spare Change is the last of Parker’s Sunny Randall novels. He created the character at the behest of actress Helen Hunt, who wanted to play her in either a TV series or a series of movies. Visualize Hunt when you read the books and you can see the fit. He was clearly fond of the character, for he gave her his wife’s name as part of hers: Sonya Joan Randall.

Like Spenser, Sunny works in Boston, is a private investigator, has a dog, and found working for the actual police force too restrictive. In a kind of Romeo and Juliet touch, she used to be married to Richie Burke, the law-abiding scion of a rather nasty mob family. They still love each other, but the conflicts inherent in their backgrounds (her father is a retired cop) got in the way.

In Blue Screen, the novel before this, Sunny encountered Paradise Police Chief Jesse Stone, Parker’s other series character, and they began a relationship that crossed over into the next Stone book, High Profile, and appeared to conclude there. Both characters, though strongly attracted to each other, are unable to let go of their former spouses.

In this book it develops that Richie’s continued affection for Sunny, which has been strictly platonic for some time now, is getting in the way of his marriage. He and Sunny share a dog, Rosie, and when he refuses to cut Sunny entirely out of his life his current wife makes it a breakup issue.

Sunny has been working out relationship issues for some time as a patient with Dr. Susan Silverman, Spenser’s lady friend. Events in this book give her the opportunity to examine her own situation and that of her family in a way that she has never done before.

It begins with a murder.

“Hi Phil,” said the note. “You miss me? I got bored, so I thought I’d reestablish our relationship. Give us both something to do in our later years. Stay tuned.  –  Spare Change”

Spare Change was the name the press gave to a serial killer some 20 years earlier, a case Phil Randall had not been able to solve and which had suddenly stopped. The killings were random – a single .38 shot to the head with a scattering of loose change left near the body.

For this, Phil is asked to come out of retirement, and he requests that he be allowed to bring Sunny on board to help with the case. Boston PD and State officials, represented by characters we know well from both the Spenser and Stone mysteries, give their blessing to this plan, as a result of which we get to spend more time with the dysfunctional Randall family.

Phil’s a nice enough fellow, but so strong a character, so centered in himself, that his family members tend to be dependent on him and vie for his approval. Mrs. Randall is an alcoholic and daughter Elizabeth is ditzy. Sunny seems to have escaped most of the damage, but it has left her unable to form stable romantic attachments.

If I’m giving you the impression that a great deal of this book is about character analysis rather than the mystery, you wouldn’t be wrong.

The police arrive after one of the murders in time to cordon off the park here it took place, so soon, in fact, that the killer has to abandon his gun and they are able to question all the people still in the park at that time. The killer is still there, and Sunny spots him almost immediately. There is no proof however, and much of the rest of this part of the book is about the search to find some way to tie him to the crimes.

Some of the story is about solving the original series of murders and figuring out why they stopped when they did.

In the end it boils down to a cat and mouse game between Sunny and the prime suspect, with a denouement in the bar owned by her sometime bodyguard and good friend, Spike.

I listened to most of this book while I was mowing my lawn over a period of about 10 days. Kate Burton did an excellent job with the first person narration and even had a range of “Bahs-tonian” accents to match the various characters in the book. The story was interesting enough that I simply sat out on the porch and listened to the last hour of it after I had finished my weed whacking and other chores.

Authors have been selected to continue the Spenser and Stone series, but there’s no word on Sunny’s future yet. I do know that she turns up again is some of the Jesse Stone novels, so perhaps this is not the end of her adventures.







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