For many years, I've been a fan of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series, and even though many of the later books in the series do not measure up to the standards that Parker set earlier, I've still enjoyed most of them. Parker died a couple of years ago, and I've been reluctant to read Painted Ladies and Sixkill, which are the last two book in the series, because it's like saying goodbye to an old friend. But I finally pulled Painted Ladies off the shelf and read it this week.
Like many of the later entries in the series, the plot is fairly thin and serves mostly as a framework for a lot of witty banter between Spenser and the other characters. Sadly, Spenser's long-time sidekick, Hawk, is again MIA. Even more sadly, Spenser's long-time lover, Susan Silverman is not.
The story opens when an art historian with the improbable name of Ashton Prince approaches Spenser asking for protection. Prince has been selected as the go-between in the return of a priceless painting that has been stolen and is being ransomed back by the museum to which it belongs. Prince wants Spenser to accompany him to the exchange.
Things do not go well and, through no fault of Spenser's, his client is killed. Though Spenser has fulfilled his end of the bargain and no longer has a client, the PI's code demands that he avenge Prince's death and bring the bad guys to justice. His investigation leads him into a world of art theft and fraud, and it quickly becomes apparent that Spenser's client might not have been quite what he claimed, which of course the reader knew well would be the case when Prince first walked through Spenser's door.
As things progress, Spenser's own life is threatened--something that has happened pretty routinely in each of the thirty-eight books that preceded this one. As always, Spenser is unfazed by this and will deal with the bad guys as they come. In and around the investigation, Spenser will cook a good number of meals and share way too many tender, icky moments with Susan, a woman only Spenser could love.
All it's a quick, fun read and those who have followed this series from the beginning will know exactly what to expect. Those who have not and who are thinking about dipping into this series for the first time, would be much better advised to read one of the earlier books like The Godwulf Manuscript or Early Autumn