Mortal Stakes

Mortal Stakes_RobertBParker_414402

 

PRINCIPLES, CODES, HONOR AND SURVIVAL

3 STARS

Spenser is hired by Harold Erskine of the Boston Red Sox to investigate the whispered rumor that their star pitcher, Marty Rabb, is throwing the occasional game. Posing as a novelist writing a book on the Sox, he begins “interviewing” the players and the staff as well as Rabb and his wife.

It doesn’t take Spenser long to find out that Bucky Maynard, the main broadcast announcer, is connected in a bad way to Frank Doerr, a local loan shark. Nor does it take Spenser long to find out that Linda Rabb isn’t really “Linda” at all. And it doesn’t take long for Spenser to connect those dots to form a picture of blackmail.

Parker then takes Spenser and the reader on a bumpy ride through an ethical jungle. As Spenser learns more of the facts that make up the blackmail scheme, Parker forces both Spenser and Rabb into some very tight spots regarding professional obligations and personal accountability. Parker makes none of the answers easy and none of the results nice.

The character of Spenser is faceted differently than the typical literary PI or the ex-boxer that he is. Parker writes him as not only of above average intelligence but as almost cerebral in nature. He is a well-built jock and a fitness fanatic who would rather read history tomes and the daily paper than the latest best seller. He has developed a persona of witty repartee using quotes from movies and books as well as lyrics from popular songs. This smart-aleck banter is most often used on people who need to be kept at a distance or just to irritate the listener in the room.

Unfortunately, Parker does too good of a job with this aspect of Spenser’s character. Parker seems to have forgotten that the reader is also a “listener.” Thus, the sass and sarcasm gets tedious very quickly, particularly since it often shows up in his internal monologues as well.

But underneath the “jerk,” Parker also writes a sensitive and caring man. In this book, Spenser’s code of honor – his personal blueprint of principles that govern his behavior – is called into question by his need to help the Rabbs. And before this book ends, Parker takes Spenser, Rabb and the reader through the psychological maze and the horrific emotional aftermath that results when one changes the rules to fit the situation.

Cover Art from Goodreads

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