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Walking Shadow

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Walking Shadow (1994) Robert B. Parker

I’d not actually forgotten how much I like this story, I’d just forgotten the details. On re-read, I realized that details were just one of the things I liked.

First, Spenser is more thoughtful and poetic than usual.

The twenty-three-year-old women who filled the building were restoring makeup, reorganizing hair, reapplying lipstick. The young guys that worked with them were in the men’s room checking the haircut, washing up, straightening ties, spraying a little Binaca. Daisy Buchanan’s. The Ritz Bar. The Lounge at the Four Seasons. Thank God it’s Friday. Children still, most of them, everything ahead of them. Career, sex, love, disaster. All of it still to come, all of it waiting for them while they straightened their ties and smoothed their pantyhose and thought about the first cocktail.

(T)here was no sense that the rain was engendering. That it would bring forth fresh life. Here too the rain seemed almost pestilent as it bore down on the cluttered and makeshift homes that crowded against the slick ocean, where the greasy waves swelled against the waterlogged timbers of the fish piers.

The rain never actually seems to stop in the town, and that helps to set the mood for the rest of the story.

He’s also extra thoughtful.

I looked at the kids for a moment. They were not something new. They were something very old, without family, or culture; prehistoric, deracinated, vicious, with no more sense of another’s pain than a snake would have when it swallowed a rat. I’d seen atavistic kids like this before: homegrown black kids so brutalized by life that they had no feelings except anger. It was what made them so hard. They weren’t even bad. Good and bad were meaningless to them. Everything had been taken from them. They had only rage. And it was the rage that sustained them, that animated their black eyes, and energized the slender, empty place intended for their souls. The kids saw me looking at them and looked back at me without discomfort, without, in fact, anything at all.

In this story Spenser and Susan by a weekend/vacation house in Concord, and start working on it.

when we got the back stairwell down, and the rubble cleaned away, we noticed that the beams supporting the open perimeter of the now stairless well rested, at either end, on nothing at all. As far as we could tell, they were held up by the floor they were supposed to be supporting. This seemed to me an unsound architectural device.

I may possibly have confused what house gets sold in Small Vices. I’ll have to see which when I read it. (I didn’t think Spenser had sold the cabin he and Paul built. But now I’m not sure.

This is the first book in which we see Vinnie Morris and Hawk working together with Spenser. It’s interesting how we don’t actually learn much about Vinnie–he remains and enigma far more than Hawk does.

Vinnie was humming softly to himself.

Hawk looked up from his book. “What you listening to?” he said.

“Lennie Welch,” Vinnie said.

Hawk looked blank.

Vinnie gave him a sample. “‘ You-oo-oo-oo made me leave my happy home . . . ’”

“Lucky you can shoot,” Hawk said and went back to his book.

Then we have the bit of the story that has always stuck me with.

Though it was hard to be sure in a Polaroid, she appeared to have no body hair. Theoretically this oddity would be an excellent identity clue. But it was of limited practical value.

‘Electrolysis.’ And we all say, ‘Electrolysis? Everywhere?’ and (she) nods like a doctor confirming a diagnosis and says, ‘Everywhere. My flower is like a polished pearl.’”

That bit has always stuck with me.

There are lots of meals described–including Spenser cooking, and we don’t actually get Susan seeming like an anorexic in this book, with the emphasis on how little she ears.

And then there is the technology: Tapes and Walkman players, VCRs, Fax machines, answering machines, and Spenser’s newest toy: a Car Phone. But aside from all the outdated technology, everything else about the story is pretty timeless.

I looked around me. “This was originally a studio apartment,” I said. “Now ten men live here.”

“Yes, sir.”

I shook my head. I wanted to say something about how this wasn’t the way it should be. But I knew too much and had lived too long to start talking now about “should.” “Send me your huddled masses,” I said. “Yearning to breathe free.”

I really do like this story.
Rating: 9/10

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Categories: 9/10, Mystery, Private Eye, Re-Read     Comments (0)    



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