As you know, I buy every Robert B. Parker book immediately, although in the recent years and with the recent novels, “immediately” has come to mean the week of release, sometimes the month of release instead of the day. So I got this book within a week of its hitting the shelves and the Amazon shipping room.
Like Phil Connors at the end of Groundhog Day, I have to admit to my perfect woman that something’s different, and anything different is good. The protagonist is not the biggest, baddest gun in town who happens to be co-dependent to a slut and a Korean War veteran. Instead, the first person narrator is the sidekick, and damned if that ain’t enough difference.
Virgil Cole, the toughest marshal-for-hire in the business, and his sidekick Everett “I” Cole come to Appaloosa at the behest of the local aldermen to handle the local band of rowdies who killed the last marshal. As they move into town and onto the badmen, a new woman shows up in town and draws the codependency of the formerly impervious Cole even though she’s a flighty
Jewess woman. The tandem of Cole and “I” capture the leader of the murderous band and see him through to a conviction, but his lackeys hire the other baddest guns in the west to concoct an escape with the woman as a hostage and….
Well, I won’t get into detail since my beautiful wife has yet to read the book. However, the book really breaks out of the doldrums into which the Parker books have fallen, amongst the Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and Spenser novels. This book represents what Potshot and Gunman’s Rhapsody could have been. It’s The Searchers, Sherlock Holmes, and slightly the Spenser novels intermingled in a way that freshens the Parkerverse. It lacks a number of cookie-cut features of the Parkerverse, such as the Korean War service and the tough good gay guy; not that there’s anything wrong with those, but they’re too much a part of Parkers’ other works to really add to those other works. I admit that sometime in the midst of the novel, I didn’t know where it was going, and I was interested in being surprised. And felt the book was capable of it.
My only complaint with the book is that it ends rather abruptly. The last sixth of the book runs very quickly and the ending, although satisfying, provides the satisfaction of a Chinese meal. Sure, it’s good, but I am going to be hungry later.
Perhaps that’s the intention, as the further adventures remain available for Parker to write.
Also, gentle reader, note that this is the 50th book I have read and reported for you this year. I fully expect my store-bought-and-amateur-calligraphed-certificate and coupon for a free Dairy Queen Sundae from each of you. Considering my annual goal is 70 books this year, perhaps I could afford at this time to try Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, or Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury again. Fortunately, though, for both of us, my aunt left me more pressing suspense and horror novels.