Sometimes you just need comfort food. While a trip to Cafe Poca Cosa is a delightful culinary experience, there are days when you want meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Similarly, there are times you don't want a literary experience with lots of meaning; you want a comfort read. This was a meatloaf week for me.
Robert B. Parker's Spenser series is one of my comfort reads. They're admittedly not great literature, there's lots of white space on the page, but you know exactly what you're getting. You're going to get Spenser and Hawk and a little bit of Susan as justice prevails and another crime is solved.
In this book, Mary Lou Buckman comes to Boston to hire Spenser to solve the murder of her husband in Potshot, Arizona. She's been referred by a Los Angeles police officer she knew from before she moved to Potshot. You have to wonder why she'd travel all the way across the country to hire a private detective and why the LA officer didn't recommend someone local, but hey, this is a Spenser novel and he had to get there somehow. (I cut Parker a lot of slack because I like his books.)
Spenser arrives and finds out that more than one man has followed Lou to Arizona from Los Angeles, despite the fact that she was married. Apparently both Lou and her husband played around, both before they left Los Angeles and afterwards. So these two men are immediate suspects in the murder, although one is the chief of police and another has a good alibi.
The suspicion is that the murder was actually committed by someone from the Dell. Originally some kind of hippy-style community just outside the town of Potshot, it's recently become something more sinister since a character called The Preacher arrived. The Preacher and his minions have intimidated the town. They collect payments from the local businesses and promise something bad will happen to those who don't pay up. Lou's husband Steve openly opposed them.
Spenser, of course, is intimidated by no one. When he, too, stands up to The Preacher, a group of local citizens approach him about cleaning up the Dell for a fee. Spenser thinks this is a good idea and goes back to Boston to pick up Hawk and recruits several other thugs from around the country to help out.
Of course there is the typical Spenser wisecracking and macho posturing and Susan eating like a bird along with a couple of twists. It's standard Spenser fare, if you like that kind of thing. And I do. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.
I bought this hardcover edition quite a while ago from the bargain table at Barnes and Noble because its reduced price was less than a paperback. I used to do that a lot, before I got concerned about the amount of shelf space I needed and before I got addicted to reading on my Nook. And it was kind of nice reading an actual book with pages and stuff. I'll have to try it more often.