Bad Business  
Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 2004
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-15145-1
Preceded by Back Story
Followed by Cold Service

Cover InformationEdit

"For Joan: good business"

From the dust jacket of the hard cover edition:

A cheating husband and a wayward wife provide Spenser with an unconventional and dangerous surveillance job.

When Marlene Cowley hires Spenser to see if her husband, Trent, is cheating on her, he encounters more than he bargained for: Not only does he find a two-timing husband, but a second investigator as well, hired by the husband to look after his wife. As a result of their joint efforts, Spenser soon finds himself investigating both individual depravity and corporate corruption.

It seems the folks in the Cowley's circle have become enamored of radio talk-show host Darrin O'Mara, whose views on Courtly Love are clouding some already fuzzy minds with the notion of cross-connubial relationships. O'Mara's brand of sex therapy is unconventional at best, unlawful-and deadly-at worst. Then a murder at Kinergy, where Trent Cowley is CFO, sends Spenser in yet another direction. Apparently, the unfettered pursuit of profit has a price.

With razor-sharp characterizations and finely honed prose, this is Parker writing at the height of his powers.

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Rita Fiore; she and Spenser like each other in a healthy platonic way.
  • Susan Silverman. The edges of S&S fit together to make a perfect whole.
  • Pearl, reincarnated wonder dog.
  • State Police Captain Healy, who is always glad to see Spenser at a crime scene.
  • Hawk, aka "Chocolate Thunder" and "Licorice Stick."
  • Martin Quirk, Boston Homicide Commander. A "feelings" guy.
  • Frank Belson, crime scene guru with a taste for unusual donuts.
  • Vinnie Morris, cutting edge thug. Has an iPod to play music Spenser will never understand.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

Soon after the book was published and long before I began jotting things down Matt Page wrote in to note:

Either I missed something, or there's a HUGE continuity error in this book. When Gavin is killed, doesn't Quirk tell Spenser the bullet from behind the bookshelf is from the same gun as the one that killed Gavin, and isn't that gun still at the scene? That being the case, how can the gun they take from the perp at the end of the book match the bullet that killed Gavin?

A very good question, which I tucked away for many months in my "to be researched" file. On closer examination I've decided that this glaring plot hole is too important to be an "Oops" in the Notes section.

  • In ch. 35, when Gavin is found dead in his apartment a gun is on the floor near his right hand with one shot fired. The fatal bullet is embedded high in the wall where it should be if he ate the gun but Belson, the crime scene guru, finds a freshly spackled hole close to the floor where another bullet is lodged. Speculation is that this gun was fired to provide powder burns on Gavin's hand and face so that forensics evidence would point to suicide.
  • In ch. 38 Belson tells Spenser about the powder residue and notes that the bullet which killed Gavin matches the one behind the patching goop.
  • In ch. 65 it is confirmed that both Rowley and Gavin were shot with the gun Hawk took away from Devaney.


  • The two bullets taken from Gavin's apartment match.
  • They in turn match the one that killed Rowley.
  • The bullets that killed Gavin and Rowley came from Delaney's gun.
  • So all three of them were fired from that gun.

So the gun found near Gavin makes no sense.

  • If it was used as claimed to fake the evidence the two bullets found in the apartment shouldn't have matched.
  • When they did, where is the bullet from that gun?
  • The whole thing reeked of evidence being planted, and the police were concerned enough about whether it was murder or suicide to do paraffin tests for powder residue
  • Since the gun had only one round missing from the magazine and two bullets were found, did no one think to fire a test round for comparison?
  • According to the above it would not have matched any of the other three.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Chapter 3:

  • "Chief of police on the North Shore." - That would be Jesse Stone, her affair with whom was chronicled in Stone Cold. Spenser met him in the last book, Back Story.
  • "Knowledge is power." - Iain Campbell pointed out in Valediction that Francis Bacon said as much in 1597. "Ipsa scientia potestas est."
  • "Someone named Rita is making fun of a name like Marlene?" - Iain Campbell wrote in to note: "I am guessing he is referring to the fact that they could both be named after major stars Rita Hayworth and Marlene Dietrich." Good catch. One of my aunts was named Wilhelmina, my ex-wife from Korea is Hae Ryon, and I was great pals with Chung Lee and Chon So before we escaped from facilities closing behind us very much like those facing Indiana Jones so names that are not often used nowadays pass right by me. My godmother, the ever so wonderful aunt Rita, may get a kick out of this.
  • HearNoEvil
    "Tom sees very little evil in a client...and speaks less." - The picture of three monkeys illustrating "hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil" has long ago passed into the common culture. Many sources trace its origins to 7th century China and the god Vadra, but all of the modern images are based on carvings in the Toshogu Temple in Nikko Japan, built in 1617.
Matt Downey immediately noticed its similarity to a line in Casablanca: "Tourist: ' Oh, we hear very little and understand even less.'"

Chapter 3:

  • "We'd be fools not to." - David Freeman points out this oft quoted but unknown phrase.

Chapter 4:

  • "I drove out the Mass Pike and south on 128 to Waltham." - See Oops below.
  • "It looked like Darth Vader's summer home." - I only saw this as an interesting quip but Jonah Rapp wrote in to note:
"That would be his castle on the planet Vjun, as chronicled in many Star Wars comics and books (and seen in at least one game), taken from one of the original inspirations for the Emperor's palace being a forbidding castle overlooking a sea of molten lava."
I highly doubt (Parker) has more than a passing familiarity with the films, and he probably knows nothing of the 'Expanded Universe'. I just appreciated the irony in the fact that Vader DID in fact have a 'summer home' of sorts.
Since Spenser noted in Valediction that he didn't like Return of the Jedi because "I don't like a movie without horses" it's obvious that Parker is not a fan of series. Personally I loved the first one and hated the next two, although the details fueled one the best scenes in Clerks. I will go to my grave rejoicing that I never watched the three prequels.
  • "The Hyatt has one of those twenty-story Portman lobbies, where you reach your floor by a glass-enclosed elevator, and each room door opens out onto an interior balcony overlooking the lobby." The "Portman lobby" refers to John Portman, an architect who designed quite a few large buildings with open spaces serviced by glass-enclosed elevators. The Cambridge Hyatt itself looks rather like what the builders of the pyramid for Cheops (the artist formerly known as Khufu) could have done with double glazed windows and reinforced concrete.
  • A low-res picture of the lobby
  • The Hyatt, resting place for weary travelers.
  • The pyramid, resting place for Cheops, circa 2500 BC
Of course it's not the best place to hide an affair. Whether you sit watching the elevators like Spenser or pretend to read a newspaper like Elmer O'Neill the comings and goings would be fairly obvious. (Thank you Jonah Rapp for spotting a wrong name I had typed in there, and doing so about an hour after this page went up. You're good.)
  • "Songs unheard are sweeter far." - From Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats. See Poetry

Chapter 6:

  • "A jug of wine, some plastic cups, and thou." - Referring to The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, quatrain 12:
A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!
The Rubaiyat is a collection of verses written by or attributed to a Persian poet from about the 11th century. The above is from the 1859 translation by Edmund Fitzgerald, which is the most widely known in the English language, although as with all translations much of the original poetry is lost. Read several versions of it at

Chapter 8:

  • "They're writing songs of love, but not for me..." - The song "But Not For Me" was written by George and Ira Gershwin for the 1930 stage play Girl Crazy and was originally sung by Ginger Rogers. It was subsequently made into a forgettable 1932 movie, and the song and title were resurrected in a 1943 Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland vehicle that had nothing to do with the original. See Lyrics
  • Spenser is listening to a Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker CD so he may be supplying the words from memory. I've found the song on several of their jazz albums but always as an instrumental.

Chapter 9:

  • "My last job I was paid four donuts." - Yeah, but they were only Krispy Kremes, not like the real ones made by Dunkin' Donuts.
  • "Little lady, you're in good hands." - Spenser claims that he is laughing with, not at, his client by quoting one of John Wayne's incredibly chauvinistic lines from the old movies. Robert B. Parker has made it very clear over the years that "We manly men will look after you pathetically frail females" is an insult to every woman of every era, and Joan would kick his ass if he didn't.

Chapter 10:

  • Weismuller-barker

    Johnny Weismuller (left) and Lex Barker.

    "Johnny Weismuller... Lex Barker." Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote Tarzan of the Apes in 1914. The movies based on it started with eight silent films before 1929 and are almost innumerable. Weismuller was the ninth actor to play the part of Tarzan and is pretty much the best known with 11 movies. Barker was the tenth and added five more to the collection.
Thanks to Dick Hanselman for noting that I originally misspelled Lex's last name as Baxter. Twice. The only Baxter who immediately comes to mind is Ted, and although he was a fine newsreader I don't think he ever starred in a Jungle movie. Paging Dr. Freud, get down to the Bullets and Beer site, stat.
Dick noted that Lex Barker was also in "La Dolce Vita" and had quite a run in many German movies.

Chapter 12:

  • "You have very little chance of getting at the truth if you know in advance what the truth ought to be." - Hisao Tomihari notes: "Dr. Parker takes a line from Marchette Gaylord Chute, the author of "Shakespeare of London." I think [the quote is] "If you know in advance what the truth will be, you will never find it." Excellent find. He also notes that it is used in chapter 18 of School Days.

Chapter 13:

  • "Knowledge is power." - As Iain Campbell pointed out in Valediction ch. 47, Francis Bacon said as much in 1597: "Ipsa scientia potestas est."
  • "I seem to recall somebody peeking in the mirror of a hotel room once." - That would be in Chance, ch. 14. Susan referred to him later in the book as "Peek-a-boo-boy."
  • Addendum: Hisao Tomihari pointed out that the same thing happened with the mirrors on the closet in Thin Air, ch. 16.

Chapter 14:

  • "And maybe on a clear day, eternity." - This one is a little bit shaky but for now I'll go with On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, the theme song from the 1965 Broadway show and 1970 film. See Lyrics

Chapter 16:

  • Loose lips
    "Loose lips sink ships." - One of the best remembered posters from World War II.

Chapter 17:

  • "The cash up front made a good bona fide." - Cynical, thy name is Spenser. Just for the record, bona fide is from the Latin and is a legal term meaning "in good faith; honestly; sincerely; without deception."
  • "We never sleep." - Sorry Jerry, the Pinkerton Agency would not be amused if you violated their service mark. See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 21:

  • "We'd be fools not to." - David Freeman points out this one yet again and writes: "Am I the only one who is starting to find it somewhat overused?" See Unknown Quotes

Chapter 22:

  • "Excuse me, I speak so many languages." - Obviously a movie line but my research went nowhere. I put it on the Unknown Quotes page.
  • "I was misinformed." - Thanks to David Freeman for finding this one. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 23:

  • "The Gainsborough exhibit." - David Freeman sent in the following: "(This) gives one of the infrequent external dates for Spenser:

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston: Thomas Gainsborough, Sunday June 15, 2003 - Sunday September 14, 2003"

  • "We never sleep." - What I told Jerry six chapters ago applies to you too, Spenser. See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 25:

  • "Chrétien de Troyes." - A twelfth century writer French writer (in eight syllable rhyming couplets) who many consider the master of medieval Arthurian romances, heavy with the ideals of chivalry. In "Lancelot, or The Knight of the Cart" the brave young man rescues Queen Guinevere from a castle where she is being held prisoner, but takes time to have sex with her first. Courtly love apparently is not "pure and chaste from afar."
  • "You ever read Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde?" - Written by Chaucer c. 1386, adapted by William Shakespeare as Troilus and Cressida in 1601, ultimately derived from Greek stories of the Trojan war. Spenser references the character Pandarus, who put all his efforts into getting his niece C into bed with his friend T. The name endures in the English word "panderer," which Webster's defines as "a procurer for prostitutes." A slander on the fellow and not his intention at all, but such is the way of languages.
BTW: If you think these last two points skip rather lightly over the facts you should see the data files I collected and had to boil down to a reasonable size, not to mention reading a very long poem and two seemingly interminable plays. The lengths I go to for this site...
  • "Linda Lovelace." - Yes, her field was also human interaction. The 1972 film Deep Throat (premise: a woman whose clitoris is somehow located in her throat can only be sexually satisfied by performing fellatio.) One of the first porn movies to have a plot, one of the last to be shown in legitimate movie theaters where I saw it at age 19. For more details on the life of Linda Susan Boreman follow these links and pick which version of reality you choose to believe: (Sorry, but only one of the three links is still active: )
  • Note: I had just finished reading "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel while putting together the last line of the above paragraph. If you know Piscine Patel, ask him to contact me.

Chapter 28:

  • "Open shuttered and passive." - Yet another nod to Christopher Isherwood. See Oft Quoted
  • "Ever vigilant." - See Hugger Mugger ch. 52

Chapter 29:

  • "Never is heard a discouraging word." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 30:

  • "He likes me. He really, really likes me." - Paraphrasing Sally Fields, who won an Oscar as Best Actress for her role in the 1984 movie Places in the Heart. "You like me! You really, really like me!" Or words to that effect; I have yet to find two websites whose transcriptions agree.

Chapter 31:

  • "Readiness be all." - Not the first time Hawk has improved on Shakespeare. See Oft Quoted
  • "All the biracial couples in all the world and I wind up with you guys." - One of Humphrey Bogart's best remembered lines as Rick Blaine in Casablanca (1942): See Oft Quoted

Chapter 33:

  • "More deadly than an adder's sting." - Once again a deliberate misquotation. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 37:

  • "Volvic water" - Out of the ever expanding number of bottled waters, Spenser has chosen one of the better brands. Drawn from protected sources in the Chaine du Puys mountain region of France it is, as far as I can tell, entirely pure and natural. Since a lawsuit alleges that "Poland Springs" (now owned by Nestle) comes from wells drilled under a landfill, and CocaCola's "Dasani's" has been revealed to be filtered tap water from a London suburb, it's best to pay attention. The much better selling (at least in this country) "Evian" comes from an entirely different mountain range.
  • "Dash off with some guy to Quincy or Nyack." - David Freeman pointed out that this is from the 1941 song "Let's get away from it all." Words by Tom Adair, music by Matt Dennis. See Lyrics

Chapter 40:

  • "Big glasses, like Buddy Holly." - One of the big names in late '50s Rock and Roll for three years or so before his untimely death.
  • "Friend of the Big Bopper." - Actual name Jiles P. Richardson, he had one hit ("Chantilly Lace") before he, Buddy, and Richie Valens were killed in a plane crash while flying to their next tour stop in 1959. Waylon Jennings took the bus and survived; Don McLean immortalized it in his number one hit "American Pie" in 1972. Read the details at
  • "The course of true love can run smooth." - Implying that both Shakespeare and Gene Pitney got it wrong. See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 42:

  • "Take me out to the ball game." - The story goes that Jack Norworth was riding the New York City subway in 1908 when he spotted a sign that said "Ballgame Today at the Polo Grounds." Apparently some baseball-related lyrics popped into his head, which were later set to a tune by Albert Von Tilzer. Although no one now remembers the entire 1927 version the chorus has over time become firmly connected to the game. See Lyrics

Chapter 43:

  • "Maybe later I'll leap a tall building for you, at a single bound." - Faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap...well, like he said. This was the intro to "The Adventures of Superman", a 1951-1957 television series starring George Reeves. The comic books, which started in 1938, kept adding to his powers until he flew faster than light and juggled planets for fun. Eventually they deconstructed the character, threw away a few alternate universes, and brought him up to date but you won't find that information here.

Chapter 44:

  • "Caped Crusader." - Reference to Batman. Comic books, TV series, movies; you know the drill. Damned if I'll dig into it like the last chapter.
  • "Maybe you'll write Hamlet." - This thought problem is usually stated as "an infinite number of monkeys typing at random on an infinite number of keyboards for an infinite amount of time will eventually produce the entire works of Shakespeare." Yes, plus the libraries of Congress and Alexandria, the ever so extensive works of Isaac Asimov, but for some reason not including the next two Harry Potter novels. All well and good except that in mathematics infinity can only be described as a boundary to be approached by ever smaller increments but finally unreachable. Sir Isaac Newton had to invent the Calculus to figure out where the numbers would go if they got there, although they can't.
Then again, a finite number of monkeys might eventually write Hamlet, or Spenser could blunder around and solve the case. There are rumors that Microsoft accountants wrote off large shipments of bananas as "development costs for the XP2 service upgrade."

Chapter 46:

  • "Stockholm syndrome." - Adele agrees that she is warming to her protectors. It's a defensive reaction where a victim bonds with those in power closest to them against outside forces, and the psychological details are better dealt with by others. The best explanation I've found of the hostage situation at Sveriges Kreditbank in Stockholm back in August 1973 is in "The Peace Encyclopedia" (link no longer available, try
  • "Protect and Serve." - This is the second book in a row where Dr. Parker has used this phrase. It's the official motto of the Los Angeles Police Department, and since it's printed on their patrol cars and so much television is shot in LA just about everyone knows it by now, but I'm pretty sure that's where it originated.
Update: Shortly after I wrote the above Jay R. Ashworth wrote in to note that the motto is more properly stated as "To Protect and To Serve."

Chapter 47:

  • "It was like pulling a camel through the eye of a needle." - David Freeman pointed out this one. See Oft Quoted

Chapter 48:

  • "The Bang Group." - Susan's tee shirt shows that she is a fan of modern dance, as one might expect from her long association with with Paul Giacomin. This particular company is led by David Parker, son of Joan and Robert B. See
  • "Silence and slow time." - From the first verse of Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats. See Poetry

Chapter 52:

  • "And what are you that you know all this, den mother?" - Iain Campbell brought this to my attention. It is an outdated term that has passed into common usage but here is the history: Back before the early 70s, the Boy Scouts of America allowed ONLY women to serve as leaders of Cub Scout Dens. These women were called Den Mothers, and brought to our nation's vocabulary the word "Den mother" as in "watching over a group of people acting as children". Since 1973, the BSA has permitted males as well as females to serve as Den Leaders, and in 1979, the word "Den Mother" was all but eliminated in Cub Scouting literature. In 1985, the BSA finally stated that the term "Den Mother" would no longer be used in relating to the female leader of a Cub Scout Den; all references would be to the current term "Den Leader."
  • "Tony Pangaro" - Not a fictional character. While Susan may have slightly overstated his real estate dealings he is a principal of Millennium Partners, Boston, the developer of Millennium Place, and certainly much more. With all due respect for someone who could buy me, my website, and half of the planet with his pocket change let me say: "Hi Tony!"

Chapter 53:

  • "I figure, I eat enough of these and I get to do one of those commercials." - The sandwiches are from a nationwide chain of shops called Subway. For those of you in less civilized climes, let me explain that a hunk of bread sliced open and stuffed with ingredients is not a Hero, Hoagie, Po' Boy, Torpedo, or other such rubbish. It's a submarine sandwich, commonly shortened to "sub." I'll grudgingly let you call it a grinder if it's toasted in the pizza oven, but only in the Boston area.
  • The name Subway works on two levels and I might respect the pun if their food didn't strike me as an extremely poor value for the money compared to any other store I've ever been to. To maximize profits, portion control is taken down to the milli-micro-gram level, and one additional shred of lettuce on a sandwich would apparently bankrupt the corporation. The commercials in question featured Jared Fogle, who claimed to have lost several hundred pounds while eating nothing but their sandwiches. Yes, of course that's a crock-o'caca, but this site destroys the myth better than I ever could:
  • "Lippity lop." - I haven't explained this one since A Catskill Eagle so here goes: 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. The first of an eventual six volumes was published in the 1920's and the protagonist was usually Br'er Rabbit, who would outsmart Br'er Bear and Br'er Fox who wanted to make a meal of him ("Br'er" being a contraction for "brother", while "Uncle" is still a polite way for a child to address an older man.) Many decades later I think of Bro' Rabbit and hear Sidney Pottier angrily stating that "They call me Mister Remus!"

Chapter 54:

  • "Inconsistency, thy name is Adele." - Hmm, I parodied that one myself up in Chapter 17. "Frailty, thy name is woman!" - Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, scene 2, line 146.

Chapter 57:

  • "Glorious feeling...laughing at high up above." - One gets the feeling that Hawk is not quite as enthusiastic about getting wet as was Gene Kelly while performing one of the best remembered song and dance numbers in musical film. It's the title track from Singing in the Rain (1952). See Lyrics
  • "Stella Artois." - Pretentious, thy name is Stella. This is the first time Spenser has it in supply and he and Hawk profane it by ignoring the pouring ritual and not using the proper glass. As far as I can tell it's a middle-of-the-road pilsner made in Belgium.

Chapter 57:

  • "The love that dare not speak its name." - I answered this at some length in Hugger Mugger.

Chapter 59:

  • "Yonder somewhere gazing at a star." - To be more precise it's "blinking at a star," which is what Gaston claimed to be doing while not noticing that little Gigi had grown up to be a beautiful woman. Gigi, based on a novel by Colette, was made into a movie musical in 1958 and won nine Academy Awards. Louis Jourdan was singing about Leslie Caron, sometime after Maurice Chevalier thanked Heaven for little girls. See Lyrics
  • "The flowcharts look like they were created by Hieronymus Bosch." - A bit busy, aren't they? I had to shrink "The Garden of Earthly Delights" quite a bit to fit the page but you can get the idea.

Chapter 61:

  • "Pascal's wager" - Stan Siberman contacted me in April 2004 (while I was still taking notes) to clarify this one: "Pascal's Wager can be presented in many different forms, usually something like this: 'It makes more sense to believe in God than to not believe. If you believe, and God exists, you will be rewarded in the afterlife. If you do not believe, and He exists, you will be punished for your disbelief. If He does not exist, you have lost nothing either way.'" When I notified him that the page was done and thanked him for his contribution he added the following codicil:
"People who get paid to think for a living (what kind of job is that anyway?) I believe they are called theorists - anyway some of the current thinking about this whole wager thing is that if God is omnipotent and you believe in him ONLY due to Pascal's logic - then he knows why you believe in him and therefore your belief doesn't count :) Interesting?"
Thank you, Stan. I knew of Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) for his famous mathematical theorem but never explored his religious views.
I know what you're thinking. Did I work out all 60 quadrilaterals or only 59? Seeing as how HK/GK * GL/IL * IJ/HJ = 1 is the most powerful equation in the world, and will blow your GPA clean off, you have to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky. Well do you, punk?

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Reading material:
  • Spenser: "Rembrandt's Eyes" by Simon Schama
  • Spenser: "Genome" by Matt Ridley
  • Hawk: "The Teammates" by David Halberstam
  • In ch. 55 Spenser is walking with Marlene when he makes the following mental note: "A good-looking woman walking a small black-and-white bull terrier walked past us. I glanced at the woman's backside. Excellent." Contributor Harvey Morrell wonders if this might be an oblique reference to Sunny Randall. Manchester-by-the-Sea is quite a bit north of Boston but Sunny may have had a case bringing her and Rosie to the Cape Ann area, and by all accounts she does look good from either side.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 2: So, um, this is from personal experience, right?

"'My name is Spenser,' I said. 'To see Randy Frampton.'
'Concerning?' she said.
'I'm trying to establish if that's his first name or a descriptive adjective,' I said.
She looked at me and frowned for a minute and then smiled widely.
'That is most definitely his first name, Mr. Spenser.'"

Chapter 2: The check is in the mail, I'll respect you in the morning, and the government is looking out for your best interests

"'What do they do?'
'Energy trading of some kind,' Frampton said.
'That doesn't mean mean they own a power plant.' I said.
'No, no. They're traders--brokers. They buy power here and sell it there.'
'Gee," I said. 'Just like the legislature.'"

Chapter 8: And then we tried talking to Mrs. Group about her husband but that went nowhere

"'Car's registered to the Templeton Group, one hundred Summer Street,' Belson said.
'Company car,' I said.
'Unless there's some guy walking around named Templeton Group.'
'You know what the company does?'
'I figured you'd ask so I used a special investigative tool known only to law enforcement.'
'You looked them up in the phone book.'"

Chapter 11: We don't know Spenser's first name but "procedure" is obviously not his middle one.

"'Why would you wait until after five and sign in.' I said, 'when you could go in at five of five and not sign in.'
'You wouldn't,' Healy said.
'But procedure is procedure,' I said.
'Why I left the cops,' I said.
'You left the cops because they canned your ass for being an insubordinate fucking hot dog,' Healy said.
'Well, yeah,' I said, 'that too.'"

Chapter 11: Hell, we've practically got them cornered (a registered service mark of Spenser Investigations, licensing fees may apply)

"'What we can be pretty sure of,' I said, 'is whoever wanted him dead, wanted him dead pretty bad. Walk in and shoot him, no attempt to make it look like an accident, or a suicide. They wanted it done quick.'
Healy bit the corner off a triangle of toast and chewed it slowly and swallowed.
'Or they were so mad it didn't matter to them,' Healy said
'That narrows it down,' I said.
Healy grinned at me.
'Yeah, it was either a crime of passion or it wasn't,' he said."

Chapter 20: On second thought, let's not shake hands on this deal

"'You want to try it,' he said in a commanding voice.
'Oh, you men,' Ellen said. 'You're just overgrown boys.'
'True,' I said. 'But it's worth keeping in mind that I'm about thirty pounds more overgrown than your husband.'
I looked at Bernie for a moment.
'And I would guess, four inches taller.'
'You think I can't handle myself?' Bernie said.
'You've probably been handling yourself too much,' I said."

Chapter 21: Sadly, "The Corporate Gumshoe" never did go into a second printing

"'That is a police matter,' Gavin said. 'We are permitting the police to handle it.'
'So you haven't offered them a trip to Tulsa,' I said.
Gavin's eyes were now so narrow it was surprising that he could still see.
'I am trying to conduct this meeting in a businesslike and professional manner,' he said. 'You do not make that easy.'
'Thanks for noticing,' I said."

Chapter 25: Me talk pretty one day (my thanks to David Sedaris, a master storyteller of our age, for that line)

"'We only assume something to be an accident when all other explanations fail,' she said.
'Wow,' I said. 'Is that the royal we? Or are you talking about you and me?'
'You and me,' she said. 'I only use the royal we for state occasions.'
'So you think it's an accident?'
'Couldn't you have said that to start?'
'I have a Ph.D.,' Susan said. 'From Harvard. If I had done postdoctoral work, I wouldn't be able to speak at all.'"

Chapter 47: At 15/19 MPG that's a pretty expensive date

"'First,' I said, 'there's nothing personal here. You seem like a nice fellow. Second, there's nothing judgmental. Your sex life is your business. I don't care if you have carnal knowledge of a Chevy Tahoe, as long as the Tahoe is a consenting adult.'"

Chapter 60: Sure, that's good enough for the Common. In Dorchester the squirrels might very well fire back

"While I sat, a hard-nosed rodent with a ragged tail that spoke of battles won paused in front of me and glared at me for peanuts. There are some macho squirrels on the Boston Common.
I stood up. The squirrel with the ratty tail reared onto his hind legs.
'Don't push it,' I told the squirrel, 'I'm packing.'"


  • Chapter 6: Pastrami on light rye and a half sour pickle.
  • Chapter 16: Fruit and cheese at the Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Chapter 21: Two donuts.
  • Chapter 24: Club sandwich and fries at the Standish Club.
  • Chapter 25: Cinnamon donuts at his office supplied by Healy
  • Chapter 30: Corned beef hash and a poached egg at Chatham Bars Inn
  • Chapter 33: Spenser makes Moussaka (without eggplant), served with biscuits.
  • Chapter 34: Chowder at the new Legal Seafood in Cambridge.
  • Chapter 38: Plain donut with Belson.
  • Chapter 58: Green pepper and mushroom pizza at the office.


  • Chapter 2: Martini at the Federalist with Rita, Sauvignon Blanc with the meal.
  • Chapter 6: Reisling with their picnic.
  • Chapter 16: Pinot grigio at the MFA.
  • Chapter 20: Scotch and soda at the Eisen's.
  • Chapter 21: Blue Moon Belgian Ale at Susan's.
  • Chapter 24: Beer at the Standish Club.
  • Chapter 25: Budweiser at a faux Irish pub.
  • Chapter 31: Beer on the front porch.
  • Chapter 33: A martini with orange vodka, wine with the meal.
  • Chapter 57: Stella Artois at the office.


  • This book is Dr. Parker's take on the "Enron" scandal, moved from Texas to Massachusetts. Bob Cooper, despite his faults, is a more sympathetic character than his progenitor Kenneth Lay who, if convicted, we can only hope will be a very long term guest of the federal government. A few readers felt that the explanation of this financial scam slowed down the plot, but I disagree. I never did get more than a general idea of what went on until Marty Siegel put the "Mark to Market for Dummies" economic theory of knuckle knives at a level that I could understand. (Thanks to Nbpt31 for pointing out my previous errors in the above paragraph).
  • Oops: In chapter 4 Spenser states "I drove out the Mass Pike and south on 128 to Waltham." No you didn't; that interchange is exit 14 in Weston and Waltham is due north. I drive in from the west five days a week on the way to work and pass the Totten Pond Road exit about three miles up. Taking the ramp southbound would be one hell of a detour.
  • Oops2: Greg Thistle wrote in to note that the dust-cover spells the name as Cowley instead of Rowley. I'm sure several others did too and I never stuck a note in the files, for which I apologize. Of course that's nothing compared to how the publisher butchered the dedication in Melancholy Baby.
  • Oops3: David Freeman found a typo that has existed from my first edition hardcover to his fifth edition paperback:
"Could be a bullet hole," Quirk said. "Or a phone jack, or a gouge in the plaster."
"Behind the bookcase?" Quirk said. "Dig it out."
I'm certain that the first Quirk should be Belson.
  • In ch. 33 Spenser makes Moussaka with zucchini instead of eggplant. I tried to add this to the Cookbook but there are a few problems:
  • The two vegetables aren't the same shape or size, nor do they process the same way.
  • I couldn't find a way to cut and layer the ingredients that worked well.
  • Like Dr. Parker I don't care for the taste of eggplant, but since I also hate the taste of lamb I wouldn't have liked it no matter how it turned out.
  • The only test subject I inflicted it upon complemented me for a very nice stew. I love her and she meant it as a compliment but it's a sad commentary on my culinary skills.
  • In ch. 38 Spenser has a "dainty" plain donut, and looks with distaste on Belson's choices:
  • Boston cream (custard filling and topped with chocolate)
  • Strawberry-frosted with multicolored sprinkles
  • Maple frosted with strawberry sprinkles

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