IT’S NOT THAT SIMPLE
For about ten seconds this book is a mystery. After that it becomes a low-tension thriller. But, for the most part, this Edgar-winning novel is an anecdotal treatment of the societal effects caused by the formal women’s liberation movement that began ten years prior to its publication.
It is a mystery to Harv Shepard that his wife is missing, bags and all, but no note. Harv is a fairly wealthy and successful real estate developer, living in Hyannis within sight of the ocean and a certain Presidential compound. He loves, to distraction, his wife of over twenty years and has never strayed. When the police can find no evidence of foul play, Harv hires Spenser to track her down.
When Spenser arrives at the Shepard mini-mansion to pick up copies of phone bills and credit card receipts, he finds Harv in serious conversation with an imposing black man named Hawk. Spenser and Hawk have known each other for decades, from back when both were into the professional heavyweight fighting scene. Hawk, like Spenser, is no longer engaged in professional sports, choosing to use his skills as a freelance enforcer and debt collector. And, lately, Hawk has been affiliated with King Powers, a very nasty Boston-based loan shark. So if Harv is receiving a visit from Hawk, something very ugly is in the works. Thus, the reader is led to believe the missing Pam Shepard may be collateral on a loan.
In going through Pam’s documents, Spenser discovers a connection with a group of militant feminists. However, these women are not just concerned about women’s equality with men socially, professionally and politically. This particular group is essentially after the total elimination of the male gender as a species.
These two revelations change everything. With the appearance of Hawk in their lives, Susan begins to question everything she knows about Spenser and his occupation. And with the appearance of the feminists in their lives, Susan begins to question Spenser’s commitment to her.
For the next 200 pages, Parker uses Harv and Pam Shepard’s separate crises to explore three social concepts. The first is the nature of theory versus practical application. Secondly is the exploration of long-standing customs versus independent decision-making. And thirdly is the concept of how one defines oneself – by one’s own expectations or by the expectations of others.
And within these concepts, Parker focuses specifically on the institution of marriage, particularly as to whether marriage or cohabitation should be the natural or necessary outcome of a declaration of love between two adults. But most interesting here is the fact that these discussions and explorations on sexism, self-definition and living correctly appear to parallel the relationship between Parker and his wife during this particular time period.
Now, nearly forty years since its publication, some readers might feel that “Promised Land” is more a romantic suspense than an entry in the hard-boiled detective genre. Regardless, Parker gives us a fascinating look into Spenser’s character and moral compass. And, we are introduced to the very surprising and inimitable Hawk.
Cover Art from Goodreads