Cold Service (2005) by Robert B. Parker
Spenser is a Boston Private Investigator with a habit of attracting serious trouble. On this occasion, however, it’s his closest friend, Hawk, who finds himself in a whole heap of bother.
Hawk has been shot and seriously wounded whilst trying to protect a client who subsequently ends up dead, as does his entire family, children included. It’s touch and go, but Hawk is one mean dude and, with Spenser’s help, sets out to find those responsible with the intention of dealing out some street justice.
Both men run up against the Ukrainian Mob, run by the mayor, Boots Podolak, of a Boston suburb, Marshport. These particular Eastern Europeans are a nasty bunch not given to leniency, and both Spenser and Hawk need to be at the top of their game to survive.
Matters become more complicated by the involvement of Tony Marcus who controls all black crime in the greater Boston area. Tony’s son-in-law has gotten himself mixed up with the Ukrainians, and a peace pact of mutual benefit has been arranged between both ruthless groups. Hawk and Spenser appear as if they are going to have to tackle two heavily armed and well -financed criminal enterprises at the same time.
But there is more than one way to skin that proverbial cat, and our two anti-heroes formulate (great word, not used enough) a plan whereby they can pit Tony Marcus against Boots Podolak, all the while independently settling Hawk’s score with those responsible for attacking him and murdering the young family. It’s a decent read.
The Spenser series runs to about 42 books at this stage, and is one of the most successful around. Although Parker died in 2010, Spenser continues thanks to very able guest writers who do justice to Parker’s succinct and punchy style of writing. Both Spenser and Hawk are believable and engaging characters. The cast of Cold Service is formidable and just varied enough to provide entertaining diversity. The settings are great.
Although Parker wastes no time or words in relating his stories, he still manages to supply all the essential information necessary in helping the reader to clearly picture the scenes. The pace is fast and the plot edgy. Perhaps the storyline in Cold Service is not his best but it is still sufficient to hook and hold.
This stripped-down style of writing is reminiscent of the Raymond Chandler school of literature. The novel is short, vivid and to the point. Perhaps that’s why Parker’s books sell so well.
Sult scale rating: 7 out of 10. Old-fashioned PI fare that charms and entertains. It spawned a great TV series starring Robert Urich as that likeable rogue, Spenser.