Back Story  
Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 2003
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-14977-5
Preceded by Widow's Walk
Followed by Bad Business

Cover InformationEdit

"Joan: Every Year Variety More Infinite" (see annotation below)

From the dust jacket of the hard cover edition:

In 1974, a revolutionary group calling itself The Dread Scott Brigade held up the Old Shawmut Bank in Boston's Audubon Circle. Money was stolen. And a woman named Emily Gordon, a visitor in town cashing traveler's checks, was shot and killed. No one saw who shot her. Despite security-camera photos and a letter from the group claiming responsibility, the perpetrators have remained at large for nearly three decades.

Enter Paul Giacomin, the closest thing to a son Spenser has. Twice before, Spenser's come to the young man's assistance; and now Paul is thirty-seven, his troubled past behind him. When Paul's friend Daryl Gordon-daughter of the long-gone Emily-decides she needs closure regarding her mother's death, it's Spenser she turns to. The lack of clues and a missing FBI intelligence report force Spenser to reach out in every direction-to Daryl's estranged, hippie father, to Vinnie Morris and the mob, to the mysterious Ives-testing his resourcefulness and his courage.

Taut, tense, and expertly crafted, this is Robert B. Parker at his storytelling best.

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Paul Giacomin, the son Spenser picked up along the way.
  • Martin Quirk, Homicide Commander and friend.
  • Frank Belson, a friend of even longer standing.
  • Ives, of the three letter agency.
  • Susan Silverman, the other half of a complete human being.
  • Hawk, who considers crime from a different perspective.
  • Vinnie Morris, a reference guide to the criminal element.
  • Captain Samuelson, Spenser's biggest fan on the left coast.
  • Vincent Del Rio is mentioned.
  • Rita Fiore, who still has legs to spare.
  • Jesse Stone, crossover character. He and his crew don't really belong here but it needed a mention.
  • State Police Captain Healy provided Jesse with Spenser's bona fides.
  • Ty-bop and Junior, who as a side effect kept Susan's side of Linnaean St. free of pedestrians.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Significance of the dedication: "Every year variety more infinite" relates to William Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, scene 2. Enobardus notes that Cleo's attraction is only enhanced with the passage of time:

Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.

Chapter 1:

  • "Krispy Kreme." - A sort of doughnut eaten in places other than Boston. Bringing them to the area is a tradition. Why are they in this book? Robin Dougherty asked him in an interview:
Q. Why is Spenser making such a fuss about Krispy Kreme doughnuts in this new book? Everyone knows that in New England Dunkin' Donuts rule.
A. I encountered them in my travels and I thought it would be fun for Paul to bring them back.
Update: The chain has opened up a store in Somerville. A page on The Donuts of Spenser which I forgot to write will be added one of these days... (Update #2: The Somerville store closed, and Krispy Kreme waited a decade before trying to enter the New England market again.)
  • "Dread Scott" - An atrocious if obvious pun. Dred Scott was a slave who petitioned the courts to set him free, based on his owner having resided in free states for a number of years. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court which ruled in 1858 that as a slave he was personal property and thus had never been free. The ruling also threw out the Missouri Compromise which led to a great upheaval over states rights and such, and was one of the factors leading to the start of the Civil War two years later. "The Dread Scott Brigade." Cute.
  • "A while ago I did a thing for Rita Fiore." - Presumably in the previous book, Widow's Walk.

Chapter 8:

  • "How about maturing Lochinvar" - You mean Spenser no longer considers himself young? Ives first started calling him that in A Catskill Eagle. See Oft Quoted and Poetry.

Chapter 10:

  • "There are more things in this world than in all your philosophies, Horatio." - Well, unlike Susan I do have a copy of Hamlet and the actual quote is "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy." Act 1, scene 5. Parker hasn't used this one since Looking for Rachel Wallace ch. 13.

Chapter 11:

  • "Poins" - Paul chose an interesting title for his work of art. Poins is a somewhat minor character in Shakespeare's plays Henry IV, parts 1 and 2. He's a thief, and a drinking partner of the better remembered Falstaff and Prince Hal (who later became King Henry V.) I'm wondering if it's a take on the subject from an alternate angle, like the play "Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead" only with music and choreography. It looks like I got lucky on that guess. The very night I originally posted this page Scotaero sent me the following:
"Dr. Parker has mentioned twice now on David Brudnoy's talk show that the subject of his next non-series novel (after he tackles Jackie Robinson) will be about Ned Poins, from Henry IV. Parker pointed out that Poins disappears after Part II and is never seen or heard from again, and he thinks it would be fun to further his adventures and complete his story. Parker makes it clear that he may never get around to this, but says that if he were to ever attempt another non-series book, this would be the subject."

Chapter 12:'

  • "Racism works in mysterious's (sic) wonders to perform" - I'll examine that typo later in the Notes but it a reference to the Olney Hymns written by William Cowper and published in 1773. This is from the 68th and last hymn, Light Shining out of Darkness which starts:
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
It's an echo of Euripides: "The Gods have many faces, and many fates fulfill, that they may work their will / In vain man's expectations, Gods bring the unthought to be / As here we see..." Thanks to Lucy Hewitt by way of Ian Campbell for tracking down that particular translation from the Greek of the chorus intoning these final lines from Bacchae [404 B.C.].

Chapter 13:

  • "The theater was dark on Mondays" - I had to search a few online dictionaries for this one: adjective: not giving performances; closed (Example: "The theater is dark on Mondays") QED
  • "The Agawam Diner in Rowley " - Spenser calls it "the world's greatest restaurant" and there are many who would agree. It's a nice change from the fifty dollar a plate places he's been eating at for some time now.

Chapter 15:

  • "If this be treason let us make the most of it" - Patrick Henry, in a speech in the Virginia Convention of 1765. He had spoken out against the Stamp Act, and someone shouted out that what he talking about was treason. He replied "If this be treason, make the most of it." Last referenced in Hush Money ch. 52.

Chapter 18:

  • "Ah cursed spite that I'm the one to make it right" - Hamlet Act 1 scene 5 again, still talking with Horatio. "The time is out of joint: O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!"
  • "Arlo and Janis" - Spenser has found another comic to read after finishing Tank McNamara. If by chance your newspaper doesn't carry it you can find it at

Chapter 22:

  • "Blow wind and crack your cheeks" - Shakespeare again, this from King Lear [1605], Act III, Scene 2, line 1. The king is likening the raging storm to the troubles within his own family.

Chapter 24:

  • "I felt like Natty Bumppo" - Natty Bumppo, known as Leatherstocking, Hawkeye, and Pathfinder, among other names is the main character in The Leatherstocking Tales, a series of five books by James Fenimore Cooper. The novels tell of his adventures living a life of freedom in the wilderness of New York and of his retreat from the advance of civilization. They end with his old age and death in the Great Plains region of the West. Reflected in the series are Cooper's views on the importance of individual freedom in society. Parker devoted an entire chapter of his doctoral thesis to these books.
  • "Feet, do your duty" - Mantan Moreland played Birmingham Brown, the ever-terrified, google-eyed negro chauffeur to Charlie Chan in a series of movies in the 1940's. He was best known for running away in fear when the case got scary. This is one of his best remembered lines.
  • "Burt Reynolds in Deliverance" - A 1972 movie based on the novel by James Dickey about a canoe trip that goes horribly wrong.

Chapter 25:

  • "We going to the mattresses?" - I examined this in Family Honor, the first Sunny Randall book. It's from The Godfather, book 1, chapter 6 and Bruce Knight summed it up best: "When it looked like a mob war was about to begin the capos would prep a few unfurnished apartments for the soldiers to sleep at, someplace where they wouldn't be found and slaughtered. They'd just throw a lot of mattresses on the floor of said apartments so that the soldiers could sleep; this was a serious step to take, hence the term 'going to the mattresses.' Sorta like Mafia Defcon 2."
  • "The cops and the robbers?" - A tip of the hat to William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4 scene 6. "Hark, in thine ear: change places; and handy-dandy, which is the justice and which is the thief?" Previously used in Walking Shadow and Small Vices but those entries are so personalized that I'm not ready to move it to the Oft Quoted page yet.
  • "Brain, do yo' duty" - A variation on Mantan Moreland's line in the last chapter, but see the Notes below.

Chapter 27:

  • "Tartan plaid shorts." - Iain Campbell writes: "In Scotland, where such cloth originates, "plaid" refers specifically to a long piece of fabric worn draped over the shoulder as part of Scottish national costume. (Way back in time, in fact, the kilt and plaid were just one piece of material, worn over the shoulder and round the waist where it was belted.) The design on such an item is referred to as "tartan" which Webster says is a pattern of unevenly spaced repeated stripes crossing at right angles. In North America, we tend to refer to material with such a design as "plaid" e.g. plaid golf pants, plaid shirts, skirts etc. (Webster agrees) In Ch 27 of Back Story, Barry is wearing "tartan plaid shorts". Would it not be enough to say he was wearing (most probably) "plaid shorts" or (less North American) "tartan shorts"? I think "tartan plaid" is overkill." This is indeed a tautology. While tartan comes from the MF tertaine (linsey-woolsey) and plaid is from ScotGael plaide (blanket) in modern usage the definitions are the same.
  • Princess
    "An old pink princess phone." - Wow, talk about a blast from the past. My sister had one of these in the 1960's. "It's little, it's lovely, it lights."
  • "Reefer Madness" - A movie that has become a cult classic. Thanks largely to the efforts of Henry J. Anslinger, Commissioner of Narcotics, Bureau of Narcotics, Department of the Treasury, "The Marihuana (sic) Tax Act of 1937" effectively criminalized the distribution of this devilish weed. Did you know that this dangerous drug invariably led to psychosis, delusions, deviant sexual behavior, and the playing of jazz on the piano? Shocking. This cautionary tale was released in 1938 as Tell Your Children and was repackaged in 1948 under this name.

Chapter 29:

  • "You can run but you can't hide" - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 30:

  • "The house that dope built." - Parker is alluding to Babe Ruth but let me take it from the beginning: "The house that Jack built" is a nursery rhyme first published in 1775, although it is a variation on earlier examples of the type. "The house that Ruth built" is Yankee Stadium. Built for Ruth would be more accurate, and he hit a home run in 1923 during the first game played there.

Chapter 33:

  • "Misery loves company" - As Iain Campbell noted in Hush Money this is from "Marlow's 'Dr. Faustus' Scene V. 'Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.'" That title suffers from our modern quest for brevity. First published in 1592, Christopher Marlowe's work has been variously known as:
  • The Historie of the damnable life, and the deserved death of Doctor Iohn Faustus
  • A Discourse of the Most Famous Doctor John Faustus of Vittenberg in Germanie, Con-iurer, and Necromancer: wherein is declared many strange things that he himself hath seene, and done in the earth and in the Ayre, with his bringing vp, his trauailes, studies, and last end.
  • The Tragical History of D. Faustus
  • "Shaka Zulu" - A warrior and king who eventually took over much of southern Africa in the early eighteenth century.

Chapter 34:

  • "E-Z Pass" - For those of you outside the area this is a small transponder attached to the windshield which identifies your car as you drive through a special lane going on and off the toll road. Instead of fumbling for change twice a day the total is extracted painlessly from my checking account once a month.
  • "What's this we, whitey" - See Oft Quoted
  • "Taft University...about a half mile from the Pike" - Well, that finally answers a question brought up in Playmates and Small Vices: where is this supposed to be? Getting off the Massachusetts Turnpike at exit 14 and heading one half mile east will put you on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham.
  • "Like the wolf upon the fold" - From the poem The Destruction of Sennacherib (1815) by George Gordon Lord Byron. It is a retelling of the biblical events in 2 Kings ch. 18 and 19. See Poetry
  • "I'd spent some time at Taft with a power forward named Dwayne Woodcock, and again looking into the murder of a girl named Melissa Henderson." - Those cases were detailed in Playmates and Small Vices.
  • "Br'er Rabbit" - Joel Chandler Harris collected folk tales and dialects from the rural south and wrote a series of books in which an old black man, known as Uncle Remus, would tell the stories to a little boy. This clever hare was the hero of many stories, outwitting the bear and fox who would try to capture him. I'd like to see the foreign editions try to translate "lippety lop."
  • "Unaware and free of care" - Looks like a reference, doesn't it? I had no luck tracking it down.

Chapter 35:

  • "Kemo Sabe" - From the radio and later TV show The Lone Ranger. While the phrase was often translated as "faithful friend" or "trusty scout," researchers variously pegged it as "one who is white" or even "soggy shrub." The best guess is that one of the original writers saw a sign for a boys summer camp, Ke Mo Sah Bee, and the best rendition of the story I've found is at Parker last used it in Promised Land ch. 6 way back in 1976.
  • "Gorgon at the gate" - In Greek mythology the Gorgons were monstrous females covered with impenetrable scales, hair of living snakes, hands made of brass, sharp fangs, and a beard. whose appearance would turn anyone who laid eyes upon them to stone. They lived in the ultimate west, near the ocean, and guarded the entrance to the underworld. Of the three daughters of Phorcys and Ceto, Medusa is the only one who passed into popular knowledge. Euryale and Sthenno must be really pissed off about being overlooked.

Chapter 36:

  • "Homestead Grays cap" - The Homestead Grays were one of the longest lasting and most popular teams in the days of segregated baseball. Started in 1912, they dominated the National Negro League from 1934 until it was disbanded in 1950 after the integration of the game.
  • "Curiouser and curiouser" - It's Lewis Carroll. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 37:

  • "Sweet bird of youth" - see Oft Quoted
  • BabyHuey
    "Baby Huey." - Starting in 1950 in cartoons by Famous Studios, the "baby giant" was quite popular for many years on screen and in the comics. Huey, a very large duckling, triumphing over a hungry fox by dint of his superior bulk and clumsiness.

Chapter 38:

  • "Arlo and Janice" - Two mentions in one book.

Chapter 39:

  • "One for all and all for one" - The famous rallying cry from the 1844 novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Three Musketeers. ‘Now, gentlemen, it’s one for all and all for one. That’s our motto, and I think we should stick to it’

Chapter 41:

  • "To protect and serve" - The official motto of the Los Angeles Police Department. Since it's printed on their patrol cars and so much television is shot in LA just about everyone knows the phrase but this is where it originated.
Update: when Parker used it again in his next book, Bad Business, Jay R. Ashworth wrote in to note that the motto is more properly stated as "To Protect and To Serve" and provided a link detailing its origin:

Chapter 45:

  • "Occam's razor" - Philosopher and theologian William of Occam (1284-1347) stressed the Aristotelian principle that entities must not be multiplied beyond what is necessary. Slice off any parts of a theory not needed to fit the facts and the simplest explanation is likely to be correct.
  • "The lord giveth and the lord taketh away" - The commonly used rephrasing of Job 1:21. "Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD."
  • Jesse Stone - Interesting. The Spenser and Sunny Randall books are written in the second person so Jesse can cross over to their worlds, although it's best if they don't appear in his. Having Spenser described in the third person would play havoc with our internal images.

Chapter 47:

  • The party guests (although in some cases I'm guessing)
  • Oedipus - Program director for WBCN 104.1 FM in Boston. His real name is a closely held secret but according to both Sophocles and Shakespeare, it's a way to call oneself a mother fucker without running afoul of the FCC. Et tu, Dwayne Glasscock?
  • Will McDonough - Sportswriter for the Boston Globe, sportscaster on NFL Live and NFL Today. He passed away in January 2003, two months before this book was published. In addition to the lengthy obituaries he was remembered in every section of both local papers.
  • Bobby Orr - A living legend. Look up "Boston Bruins" in your ice hockey dictionary and you will find his picture. Being named Bob is just another plus in his score.
  • Bill Poduska - The helicopter guy from Hush Money. I found no hits in the real world. (Possibly computer entrepreneur William Poduska, who is on the boards of both the Boston Ballet and the Boston Lyric Opera)
  • Fraser Lemlay - Chairman and CEO of Sentry Lincoln Mercury in Medford.
  • Mike Barnicle - A former columnist for the Boston Globe, he slacked off just once and submitted a George Carlin riff he cribbed from the internet as his own thoughts in a column and was bounced. He's a damned good journalist and still hosts a segment on local TV and has a daily radio show.
  • David Brudnoy - The most intelligent talk show host in Boston radio. Or any radio IMHO. To hear him interview Parker with the release of each new book is almost as much fun as reading it. Hey Dave, how much did you pay Bob to appear in this one?
  • Jenifer Silverman - I have absolutely no clue.
  • Chet Curtis - A celebrated newscaster in the Boston area. Part of a husband wife team; when they split she kept the broadcast show and he moved over to cable.
  • Joyce Kulhawik - Arts and entertainment anchor at WBZ-TV channel 4. Her accomplishments are legion, and one of her shows won an Emmy.
  • Emily Rooney - Host and Executive editor of "Greater Boston," a public affairs show on the local PBS station.
  • Bob Kraft - Owner of the New England Patriots, proud winners of the Superbowl in 2002 and 2004. Another guy named Bob who did alright by himself.
  • Honey Blonder - Dancer and choreographer.
BTW the charity he mentions, Community Servings, is real and the Parkers do support it. It's a shame Spenser missed meeting them.

Chapter 54:

  • "Day at a time" - Alcoholics Anonymous stresses that sobriety is best taken one day at a time, and from there the phrase has entered the language.

Chapter 55:

  • "I thought of a line from Eliot...something about the nerve patterns displayed on the wall by a magic lantern." - Just barely comes to mind, does it Mr. Spenser? It's from the most Oft Quoted poem in the entire series of books, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. See Poetry
  • "Fight fiercely, Harvard" - Tom Lehrer, professor at Harvard and brilliant writer of funny songs, noted that most college fight songs tended to be rather uncouth and violent, and that the team needed something more genteel. He wrote this one in 1947. See Lyrics

Chapter 56:

  • "What's right is what feels good after." - Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon [1932], Chapter 1 (paraphrased from: "I know only what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.") Last referenced in Looking for Rachel Wallace.
  • "Malt does more than Milton can" - No, it is not Ausen who wrote that, it was A. E. Houseman in A Shropshire Lad. See Oft Quoted
  • "Form follows function." - Chuck (cdwin) wrote in to note: "This is a quotation from the architect Louis Henry Sullivan's 1896 article entitled 'The Tall Building Artistically Considered' published in Lippincott's Magazine. It became a slogan of the International Modern Movement in architecture."

Chapter 57:

  • "In a fallen world, even perfection is flawed" - I found echoes of the idea in St. Augustine, Milton, and many evangelical web sites but nothing that really grabbed my attention.
  • "Solly Hemmings" - There have been widespread rumors for years that Thomas Jefferson impregnated one of his slaves, Sally Hemmings. Was one of the fathers of our nation also the father of a slave child named Eston Hemmings? DNA testing points in that general direction, but as historian Williard S. Randall notes "There were 25 men within 20 miles of Monticello who were all Jeffersons and had the same Y chromosome. And 23 of them were younger than Jefferson, who was 65 years old when Eston was conceived." The Jefferson-Hemmings Scholars Commission concluded that Randolph Jefferson, Thomas' brother, was more likely to have been the progenitor. I might add that nowhere in the discussions were there any speculations about the founding mothers.

Chapter 59:

  • "Ziggy" - Bob Marley introduced the world at large to reggae's traditions and Rastafarian precepts, and his son Ziggy expanded the music for a new, younger audience. Sigmund Czernak more likely came by his nickname through the same Slavic roots as Zbignew Brzezinski.
  • "Burn, baby, burn" - This was the trademark of dynamic DJ Magnificent Montague, the voice of soul music from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, and he would cry it out before spinning the hottest new records. After a racial incident in the Watts section of Los Angeles sparked rioting in 1965, Black militants took it up as a rallying cry. By the time it was over 34 people were dead and large areas were destroyed by arson.

Chapter 62:

  • "Blue Moon Belgian White Ale" - Glenn Curry was kind enough to supply us all with a little refreshment to close out the last chapter.
  • "You sound like Yogi Berra" - The king of malapropisms. Compare Susan's statement that "You have no way to know until you get to the end, what the end is going to be" with the following: "You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." My own research on this site is based on his insight that "Baseball is 90% mental -- the other half is physical." To take it a little further: Yogi Berra: Elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972. I found a pretty good bio at
  • Mrs. Malaprop: A character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), she consistently uses language inappropriately. The word malapropos comes from the French phrase mal à propos, made up of mal, “badly,” à, “to,” and propos, “purpose, subject,” and means “inappropriate.” The Rivals was a popular play, and Mrs. Malaprop became enshrined in a common noun, first in the form malaprop and later in malapropism, first recorded in 1849.
  • And as a final salute to Yogi, I always try to keep in mind his view that "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." Robert Frost rattled on for four stanzas and said much the same thing :) See Poetry

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Pearl, who had been fading for a few years now, has passed on. We knew this was coming; Spenser outlined his view of canine reincarnation in chapter 34 of Potshot: "Mourn for an appropriate time...and buy another brown German shorthair...and name her Pearl." Enter the dog formerly known as Robin Hood's Purple Sandpiper.
  • Way back in Chance (1996) we found that Joe Broz was little more than a figurehead in the crime empire business. This is the first time since that we've looked beyond the familiar players to find the position has been filled. Sonny Karnofsky "took over what Joe Broz left behind."
  • Hawk's reading material:
  • "What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayr
  • "Einstein's Universe" by Nigel Calder
  • Can't tell her apart without a scorecard: At least one reader had trouble keeping track of references to Daryl's "mother"
  • Emily Gold was her birth name, shared by sister Sybil (who took her husband's name and is now Sybil Pritchard.)
  • Emily had a child who was assumed to be fathered by her hippie not-husband Barry Gordon, although we later found out that Daryl was the love child of Bonnie Lombard (Karnovsky) and Black activist Abner Fancy (AKA Shaka.)
  • Since Barry and Emily were not really married she was known as either Gold or Gordon by various people at various times.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 1: You'll take my box of donuts when you pry it out of my cold dead hands.

"I opened the paper bag and took out a cardboard box of donuts.
'They haven't got these yet in Boston,' Paul told Daryl. 'So when ever I come home, I bring some.'
'Will you join me?' I said to Daryl.
'Thanks,' she said. 'I'd love to.'
'That's a major compliment,' Paul said to her. 'Usually he goes off in a corner and eats them all.'"

Chapter 3: A trolley stocked with lattes and croissants is sent through the aisles each morning

"I sat at an empty desk in the Homicide Division outside Quirk's office. There were a lot of other desks in neat rows under bright lights. The floor was clean. The file cabinets were new. All the desks had computers on them. The old Berkeley headquarters was cramped and unattractive and looked like what it was. This place looked like a room for stockbrokers with bright suspenders and cuff links. Cops weren't supposed to be working under these conditions. I felt like I was in L.A."

Chapter 3: Relax pal, the Cafe con Leche is safely on your desk. I only boosted a couple of file folders

"A detective named Delong walked past and stopped and came back. He had on a green Lacoste polo shirt hanging over blue jeans. I could see the outline of his gun, in front, under the shirttail.
'Spenser,' he said. 'You re-upping?'
'Just stopped by to give you guys a hand,' I said.
'Don't steal anything,' Delong said."

Chapter 6: Somewhere down below J. Edgar Hoover is spinning in his tutu

"The Boston FBI office was in 1 Center Plaza. The agent in charge was a thin guy with receding hair and round eyeglasses with black rims named Nathan Epstein. It was like finding an Arab running a shul. We shook hand when I came in, and he gestured me to a chair.
'You're the SAC,' I said.
'I am.'
'At least tell me you went to BC,' I said.
'Nope.' He had a strong New York accent.
'NYU,' Epstein said.
'This is a bit disconcerting,' I said.
'I know,' he said. 'People usually assume I'm from Accountemps.'"

Chapter 8: An educated federal employee? Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken are equally stunned.

"I was in the lobby of the New Federal Courthouse on Fan Pier.
'International Consulting Bureau.' I said.
I gave my card to the guard and he looked at it, then checked his computer screen.
'Whom do you wish to speak with there?'
The guard looked up at me and grinned. 'It's the training program they give us,' he said."

Chapter 10: Could you please forget about the damned hound while I'm ripping your bodice?

"'She does present something of an obstacle,' Susan said.
'You feel that if I were to press my pulsating maleness upon you,' I said, 'she might react?'
'Pulsating maleness?'
'Throbbing masculinity? ' I said.
'My God,' Susan said. 'And yes, I think she'd bark and snuffle and paw at us and probably try to become part of the festivities.'
'And if we put her in another room?'
'She'd yowl,' Susan said.
'We could pretend it's you,' I said.
'We could run cold water on your pulsating maleness,' Susan said."

Chapter 11: The latest edition of Merriam-Webster's does indeed have her photo next to the definition

"Susan came in wearing a small, clean apron that said BORN TO COOK across the front.
Paul looked at the apron and smiled. 'That would be irony,' Paul said, 'right?'

Chapter 12: In PC terms, it's "some of my best friends are of an alternate racial heritage."

""'I never met a white man I could trust,' McCann said.
I waited.
'I never met one I liked.'
I let that slide.
'I never met one wasn't a racist motherfucker,' McCann said. 'You a racist?'
Hawk watched quietly, his eyes bright with pleasant amusement.
'Not till now,' I said.

Chapter 13: The Addams Family is somewhat more normal in comparison

"'Of course we're not exactly family,' Paul said.
'Depends on how you define family,' I said.
'You, Susan, and me?'
I nodded.
'And Pearl?' he said.
'Of course,' I said.
"How about Uncle Hawk?'
'Uncle Hawk?'
'I think Uncle Hawk is all the family Uncle Hawk needs,' I said."

Chapter 16:Able was I ere I saw a second bagel

"'Of course,' Epstein said, 'I am not at liberty to give you his name.'
'Of course,' I said.
'On the other hand, if you were to bribe me by paying for breakfast, simple courtesy would mandate some sort of response.'
'Breakfast is on me,' I said.
'Agent's name is Evan Malone.'
'He still around?'
'He's retired,' Epstein said.
'You know where he is?'
'Of course.'
'What do I do for his address."
'I may need a second bagel,' Epstein said.

'Jesus, you're hard,' I said. 'No wonder you got to be SAC.'

'Do I get the bagel?' Epstein said.
'Malone's on a lake in New Hampshire. I took the liberty of writing it out for you.'
'You knew I'd cave on the second bagel, didn't you?'"

Chapter 16: Boston is almost as sensitive to its Jewish population as South Park

"Epstein nodded and looked around for the waitress. When he caught her eye, he gestured for more coffee. She came and poured some for both of us.
'Could I have another bagel?' Epstein said to her. 'Toasted, with a shmeer?'
'You want that with cream cheese?' she said.
Epstein smiled. 'Yes.'"

Chapter 25: But is your math any more reliable than your planning skills?

"Behind me Hawk said, 'Damn.'
'You think of something?' I said.
I grinned. 'You just discovered you're no smarter than I am.'
'Startling,' Hawk said.
'Maybe we need to work on this together,' I said.
'One half-wit plus one half-wit?' Hawk said.
'We can hope, I said."

Chapter 29:But you will still respect me in the morning, right?

"Samuelson's office was on the third floor in the Robbery Homicide Division, in a section marked Homicide Special Section I. Samuelson came out of his office in his shirt sleeves. He was fully bald now, his head clean shaven, and he'd gotten rid of his mustache. But he still wore tinted aviator glasses, and he was still one of my great fans.
'The hot dog from Boston,' he said, standing in his office doorway.
'I thought I'd swing by,' I said. 'Help you straighten out the Rampart Division.'
'Not possible,' Samuelson said. 'Besides, I'm out of town, fishing in Baja, won't be back until you've left town.'"

Chapter 34: He looked rather sheepish while asking for help

"'As you so sensitively pointed out,' I said, 'if they are interested in bodily harm, they're after me, not you.'
'So if I got out and you drove off, they'd come after me, and we'd know. Or they wouldn't, and we'd know.'
'And if they're from Sonny and bear me ill will, and if you hadn't driven very far off, you could appear and descend upon them like the wolf upon the fold.'
'Or,' Hawk said, 'I see there only be three or four of them and figure I like your odds, and I drive back to Boston.'
'I prefer the wolf upon the fold,' I said."

Chapter 38: It's a far, far better thing I do...

""'It would be a spectacular coincidence,' I said, 'If Bonnie Louise Karnofsky were not Bunny Lombard.'
'If Sonny live there back then.'
'I'm working on that,' I said.
'You ought to give in to her one time,' Hawk said.
'And tell Susan what?'
'Line of duty,' Hawk said.
I shook my head. 'Maybe you need to step in,' I said.
'Man, I got to do everything for you?'"

Chapter 54: My favorite kind of date

"'Let us know.' Quirk said, 'when you want us in Cambridge.'
'I will,' I said. 'You'll get to meet the new Pearl.'
'Is she calm and relaxed?'
'No,' I said. 'She'll bark and race around and, if she likes you, jump up and rest her paws on your shoulders and lap your face.'
'I think I went out with her once,' Epstein said."


  • Chapter 1: Krispy Kreme donuts at the office.
  • Chapter 12: Grilled English muffins in a coffee shop.
  • Chapter 13: Spaghetti and Meatballs at the Agawam Diner.
  • Chapter 14: A Sandwich in Kittery.
  • Chapter 15: A sub at the office.
  • Chapter 16: Raspberry scones in a coffee shop.
  • Chapter 29: Huevos rancheros at La Valencia in La Jolla.
  • Chapter 37: Cheese, French bread, and cherries in Susan's backyard.
  • Chapter 38: Corn muffin at the office.
  • Chapter 51: Tossed salad and cornbread at Susan's.
  • Chapter 53: Scrambled eggs with onions at Nate and Al's deli in Beverly Hills.


  • Chapter 2: Draft Budweiser at Arno's.
  • Chapter 5: Miller High Life in clear glass bottles at Mario Bennati's house.
  • Chapter 15: Scotch at the office with drop-in guests.
  • Chapter 18: Irish whiskey at Holly's.
  • Chapter 28: Martini at La Valencia hotel bar.
  • Chapter 37: Sangria in Susan't backyard.
  • Chapter 44: Ketel One martini at Spire.
  • Chapter 47: Martini from a fountain at the Hotel Meridian.
  • Chapter 56: Scotch and soda at home.
  • Chapter 62: Blue Moon Belgian White Ale on the front porch.


  • After all these years it's good to finally nail down Taft University. "...about a half mile from the Pike" - Getting off the Massachusetts Turnpike at exit 14 and heading one half mile east will put you on the campus of Brandeis University in Waltham. No other school of advanced learning comes close to fitting these directions. See Taft
  • Oops: In chapter 12 Spenser points out that "Racism works in mysterious's wonders to perform." The rules of English grammar are legion and contain many exceptions but the possessive adjective of the personal pronoun "it" does not take an apostrophe. "Its" should have been used, as "it's" is only proper as a contraction for "it is." Hell, there's even a Usenet group called (My thanks to Iain Campbell for supplying the technical jargon above that I learned and forgot several decades ago.)
  • The nose knows: In chapter 15 Spenser rolls into his office with his gun in one hand and a submarine sandwich in the other after smelling hairspray the guy sitting at his desk used. In Walking Shadow and Hush Money it was cigarette smoke that saved him from a nasty surprise, but it's good enough for me to move this to the Oft Quoted page.
  • You did what? In chapter 25 Spenser first hides in and then walks across a small inlet of the lake. Iain Campbell notes:
Spenser evades his pursuers by wading into the lake until the water is up to his neck (i.e. this is not shallow water, to be warmed quickly by the spring sun, but is still shallow enough to have been frozen over all winter), and standing there: "They were about ten minutes behind me". Then he wades across the inlet, about 100 yards, and he can walk most of the way (i.e. fairly deep cold water). Doing so silently would slow him down. Let's say another 5 minutes. So he is in the water, up to his neck, for about 15 minutes at least, after which there is no fire nor dry clothes, just messing around with spark plugs.
The temperature (off the coast of Maine) would be in the 50's, according to, but this water would not freeze the way the lake would. So it is probable that the lake temp is around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, absolute tops. By keeping his head dry, Spenser increases his chances of survival, but by moving, he speeds up heat loss by about 35%. In addition, Spenser carries muscle rather than fat, and so would succumb faster to hypothermia. Finally, on the verge of hypothermia, one should not move around. This causes circulation to improve, and the icy blood returns from the extremities to the core, dropping the core temp even further, to the point of death. One should try to warm the extremities before encouraging circulation.
So the real question is: how cold is it in a lake in New England in May? Would it have frozen over in winter? To what thickness of ice? When would the ice-break-up occur? Spenser would be dangerously close to fatal hypothermia here in Southern Ontario. The small lake with which I am most familiar is Lake Nipissing, where the ice would usually break up in April, and early in May, is still painfully frigid. Trust a Canadian to know about icy water conditions!
I have waded in the ocean at Old Orchard Beach at the height of summer and found the water so cold as to be quite painful within seconds.
  • And then you did what? On emerging from the lake Spenser disables the bad guys' car: "I got out and opened up the Chrysler and pulled all the spark plugs loose from the wires and threw them into the lake." By the rules of English grammar "them" refers to the spark plugs, not the wires. As it reads he has somehow pulled the entire harness "in toto" and is plucking out the plugs like grapes from the vine and throwing the plugs into the water. Thanks again to Iain for pointing this out.
  • The Psychic Connection: In chapter 24 as Spenser running through the woods in Maine he thinks to himself the Mantan Morelan line "Feet do your duty." In chapter 25 Hawk grins and says "Brain, do yo' duty." It has been well established that these guys talk to each other in either specifics or generalities, and I find it quite doubtful that Spenser passed along the recollection of that random thought. Parker seems to be taking another shortcut.
  • Say what?: The audio version contains a spoken typo, as I choose to call it. In chapter 53 Spenser is having breakfast with Captain Samuelson and FBI agent Dennis Clark.
The book: "Samuelson had shredded wheat" ... "Samuelson sprinkled some Equal on his cereal"
The audio: "Samuelson had shredded wheat" ... "Samuelson sprinkled some Equal on his corn flakes."
Thanks go out to Tricia Elliott for catching that one.
  • The Forgetful Detective: I'm still not sure what Parker is trying to accomplish by having Spenser appear shaky as to the source of his quotations. Is Parker himself forgetting as he grows older? Is it a change in writing style, to give citations but be unclear? Is he making fun of the hard work I put into annotating these books?
  • Ch. 55 "I thought of a line from Eliot...something about the nerve patterns displayed on the wall by a magic lantern." As I've said somewhere on these pages, a day without Prufrock is like a day without Spenser. J. Alfred is as familiar to him as the pieces of his .38 revolver or the curves of Susan's body.
  • Ch. 56 "What was that line from Hemingway? What's right is what feels good after? The exact same misquote he used in another book.
  • Ch. 56 "That line from who, Auden? Malt does more than Milton can to justify God's way to man." You've used it often enough for it to have hit the Oft Quoted page, don't tell me you are unaware of the source.

Previous book: Widow's Walk • Next book: Bad Business

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.