One would think that by now that the assorted thugs, punks, and lowlifes that inhabit the fair city of Boston would have figured out that if they mess with Hawk, they better kill him. Make a run at Hawk and let him live and he will look to even the score and settle the debt. That is precisely what happens in this recent release.

Somebody attempted to kill Hawk while he was protecting bookie Luther Gillespie. The unknown shooter put three shots into Hawk’s back between his shoulder blades. After taking Hawk down, Gillespie was killed but the killing didn’t stop there. Also killed were Gillespie’s wife and two of his three kids. The surviving child was at daycare and thus physically able to escape the bloodbath of his family. The deaths were meant to send a message and Hawk has one of his own to send back.

As soon as Hawk gets out of the hospital and is physically able to do what he does best once again, he wants to track down those responsible. Not just the people who pulled the trigger but the person or persons who ordered the deed done. All he knows for sure was that the people he suspects were members of the Ukrainian mob, but he does not yet know their names. Once he knows for sure that they are guilty, he plans on pursing his own kind of justice for what they did and wants Spenser’s help. Spenser agrees and while Hawk begins the slow and painful rehabilitation process, Spenser begins working the case, troubled by the moral implications of what is to come, but knowing he has obligations.

This novel in the Spenser series features the minimalist scene descriptions and massive amounts of dialogue the author is known for while weaving a complex tale of justice and vengeance. Parker toys with the ideas of justice and vengeance, ideas common in the series, in new ways as Hawk and Spenser are both forced to confront at a deeper level than before what they have done and what may come as well as who they ultimately are as human beings. What works for one may not, and often does not, work for the other. At the same time, when the need arises, one would do whatever the other asked. Such contemplations trouble Spenser at times as he is faced with the moral quandary of exactly how far to go. With the help of Susan, he is able to work through what needs to be done for friendship and debts owed.

That is not to say that the contemplation of the morality of their actions, which adds significant depth to the characters this go around, impedes the story in anyway.  Using the Ukrainian mob with a modern day version of small town corruption reminiscent of the Old West, Parker once again sets up the battle lines of Spenser/Hawk against the far more numeric forces of evil. As in the last several novels of the series, Spenser and Hawk recruit allies who once were former foes to fight on their side because all recognize that there are far more serious enemies that must be dealt with.

Devoted and vocal readers of the long running series know exactly what is in store in each book. In this case, they would be right.

Cold Service

By Robert B. Parker

G. P. Putnam’s Sons


ISBN 0-399-15240-7


305 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005, 2008

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