Walking Shadow  
Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 1994
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-13961-3
Preceded by Paper Doll
Followed by Thin Air

Cover InformationEdit

For Joan "for whom, if ye please, I care for other none." See Annotation below.

Taken from the book jacket of the hardcover edition.

"With an unbroken string of best-selling suspense novels behind him, Robert B. Parker is nothing if not world-class. Now, after the success of Paper Doll, applauded by The Boston Globe as "one of the best Spensers in a decade," Parker returns with his two-fisted sleuth in Walking Shadow--a twisty, ambitious whodunit, which finds them both breaking new ground.

A Massachusetts waterfront town. A small repertory theater with a big reputation. A soupçon of scandal. And Spenser is on hand to steal the scene.

Hired by the Port City Theater Company's board of trustees to investigate the director's claim that he is being followed, Spenser feels like a fish out of water--until an actor is gunned down during a performance of a politically controversial play. Then Boston's premier private cop and his cohort, Hawk, go into action, plunging straight into a maze of motives that constitutes a master class in the difficulty in judging reality from appearances. Spenser soon discovers that solving the actor's murder is only a piece of the puzzle. From covert carnal connections within the community to municipal corruption with international tentacles; from petty troublemakers to major malefactors for whom murder is merely a day at the office--this case has everything it takes to stump the sharpest of Sherlocks. And nobody loves a challenge more than Spenser.

Heady and sardonic, with an unpredictable cast of lovers, liars, killers, and clowns, Walking Shadow entertains even as it ponders the instability of identities. It is a thoroughly engrossing performance by a classic talent.

Recurring CharactersEdit

  • Lee Farrell (cf. Paper Doll) returns to help Spenser and Susan work on the house in Concord, as well as get some information about the dead actor, Craig Sampson.
  • Vinnie Morris makes his first non-hood appearance since leaving Joe Broz (cf. Pastime) as a shooter enlisted to watch Spenser's back.
  • Lt. Healy (cf. God Save the Child), now a Captain, puts in a very brief appearance as the commander of the State Police in Boston, in regards to an inquiry made by Spenser into a local Police chief.
  • Hawk does some bodyguard work for Spenser with Vinnie Morris.
  • Susan, as always, provides moral support and an outlet for Spenser's, ah, ardor, while at the same time fending off accusations of infidelity from another woman interested in OFG.
  • We see Quirk briefly, in a phone call from Spenser regarding the Sampson murder. No Belson, however.
  • Spenser remembers Linda Thomas, although she and the building across the street vanished quite a few years ago.
  • Sam Farris reminded me to mention that this book introduced us to Mei Ling, translator extraordinaire.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

  • So what happens to Jocelyn? She obviously needs help. A LOT of help.
  • While they are waiting for the real estate agent at the Concord house, Susan notes that she sold the place in Maine that Spenser and Paul built back in Early Autumn. When and why did that happen? They still had it in Stardust, four books ago.
  • When working on the house in Concord, Susan drinks warm diet soda and says “I hate cold things”. Yet way back when Spenser and Susan first met they both liked cold red wine. Who drinks warm soda and cold red wine?

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

  • The significance of the dedication: It's from Amoretti, a sonnet by Edmund Spenser, a guy who spelled his name like an American gumshoe. See Poetry
  • The significance of the title: William Shakespeare, MacBeth, Act 5, Scene 5. "This one's obvious, due to the enormous theatre-related content of the story. One can go deeper and compare the metaphor of the play to life, and the abrupt ending of the play in the story, as compared with the abrupt ending of Craig Sampson's life, but I'll leave that to you." For those of you who (like me) don't consider it obvious let me quote the lines in question:
"Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

Chapter 1:

  • "Her name was, incredibly, Minerva." - The Roman goddess of wisdom and crafts, who sprung fully formed from the forehead of Zeus when Vulcan cured his headache with a well placed hammer. She helped Perseus kill the gorgon Medusa and attached the severed head to a shield to turn her enemies into stone. What is so incredible about that? She ran off with a fisherman named Costa but in my ignorance of Roman mythology I am probably missing the joke
  • "Who could ask for anything more." - It's the punch line of the song I've got Rhythm; words by Ira Gershwin, music by his brother George. It was introduced in the 1930 stage musical Girl Crazy and performed by Judy Garland in the 1943 film of the same name. See Lyrics
  • "Beyond here there be monsters" - This might be an allusion to the line "Here there be dragons" that pops up from time to time here and there, but I'm really not sure. I'm going to have to do some digging on this one. Conrad Rubinkowski writes: "Beyond here there be monsters" I believe is from old nautical maps. I think." Yep. Usually with a drawing of a sea serpent near the edge, out beyond sight of land where anything might be possible.
  • "Where late the sweet birds sang." - See Oft Quoted.

Chapter 3:

  • "A smile perfectly capable of launching a thousand ships and very likely to burn the topless towers of Ilium." - See Oft Quoted.
  • "Thus Spake Zarathustra" - In hip-hop no less. The symphonic masterpiece written by Richard Strauss in 1896 was brought to modern attention as the towering theme in Stanley Kubrick's 1968 movie "2001: A Space Odyssey" (think five notes and thundering tympani.) Strauss was doing a musical free association on Friedrich Nietzsche's 1883 to 1885 treatise Also Sprach Zarathustra, in which he presented his philosophy in the voice of the ancient Persian prophet Zoroaster.
  • " old man with wrinkled dugs." - A gender bending allusion from The Wasteland by T.S. Eliot. "I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives/Old man with wrinkled female breasts." See Poetry. Tiresias is an interesting character in Greek mythology. For some reason (sources differ) he was turned into a woman for seven years and then turned back into a man. Zeus and Hera argued about which gender more enjoyed the pleasures of love. He replied: "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only, but a woman enjoys the full ten parts in her heart." Not a comparison of orgasms, as is often cited, it is rather a comparison of emotional views; sex v. love, penis v. feelings, as each generation of feminists think they are discovering anew. For this revelation Hera struck him blind but Zeus made him a seer. I don't understand the motivation but they're gods; go figure. And it was blind Tiresias who told Oedipus that he killed his own father and married his mother. Talk about recycling characters. "An old man with wrinkled dugs (breasts)" is just another example of the play being, as Spenser notes, "heavy handed but obscure."
I hope that somewhere in the literary afterlife Euripides is holding Leonard O down while Sophocles is kicking the shit out of him.
  • "Lucky in love" - Words by B.G. De Sylva and Lew Brown, music by Ray Henderson, it was introduced in the stage musical Good News, 1927. See Lyrics

Chapter 4:

  • "One and a half billion males on the planet and I'm having dinner with Heckel and Jeckle." - Two references in this one: The first part is a take-off on Humphrey Bogart's line from Casablanca. See Oft Quoted (thanks to Hisao Tomihari for pointing this out.) Heckle and Jeckle (note spelling) were wise cracking magpies in a series of cartoons starting in 1946. See [http:// Toonopedia] for details.

Chapter 5:

  • "A diamond as big as the Ritz." - Title of a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, written in the 1920's. It does indeed concern a diamond as big as the Ritz Hotel, and is a nice satire on the moneyed society of the day.
  • "You'll think I was Jascha Heifetz." - At the end of the chapter Spenser says that he sometimes says Yehudi Menuhin. Both artists are widely regarded for their delicate and skillful handling of the violin, but it is implied that DeSpain may be slightly more heavy-handed in his questioning.
  • "The late plays of the Wakefield Master." - Christopholous was of course thinking about "The work of the so called Wakefield Master, probably a cleric, is part of the mystery plays in the Towneley Cycle. This remarkable poet seems to have written his pageants between 1400 and 1450 in Wakefield, a prosperous market town in Yorkshire, where his plays were also performed."

Chapter 6:

  • "Handy Dandy." - Here's a first, a significance of the title in the middle of a book. The "heavy-handed but impenetrable" play about previously held views of "appearance and reality" owes it's title to William Shakespeare, King Lear, Act 4 scene 6. "Hark, in thine ear: change places; and handy-dandy, which is the justice and which is the thief?"
  • "Quem Quaeritis." - Episodes from the Bible performed by the church, although there is of course a lot more to it than that. Read about it here.
  • When discussing the playwright Leonard O., Spenser references the book “The Story of O” Which is a controversial but famous French novel dealing with sexual themes of submission written by Pauline Reage (as a pseudonym for Anne Desclos).

Chapter 7:

  • "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 8:

  • "Probably at least thirteen ways of looking at a bluejay." - A nod to Wallace Stevens, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird. See Poetry
  • "Never a horse that couldn't be rode/ never a rider that couldn't be throwed." - This was on my Unknown Quotes page for quite a while, but Michael Frasier writes: "I think [it's] from Will Rogers. I'm including a link to a quotes page that shows it attributed to him, but I'll try to verify it further." (Update: The saying is actually probably from cowboy artist and author Will James, who died in 1942 with 25 novels to his name. See this linkfor more details.)

Chapter 9:

  • "I trow he were a gelding or a mare." - Not sure on this one. Probably attributed to the fact that Spenser perceives O, the writer of the play, as being somewhat asexual. (Readers Robert M. Reed and Glenn Hopp later identified the source as the prologue of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Joe Ugoretz then wrote in with what looks like the definitive answer: "Your informants ... quite correctly identify the quote as coming from the General Prologue of the Canterbury Tales (line 691), but the narrator is referring to the Pardoner, not the Summoner. It's a crucial line, and a problematic one, in studies of the Pardoner and the Canterbury Tales and Chaucer's work as a whole. It's meant to be read much more deeply than the surface meaning, in the context of the narrator's entire description of the Pardoner and in the context of the Pardoner's tale. I wouldn't bother to point this out, except that it fits so neatly (intentionally on Parker's part, I'm sure) as a characterization of the playwright O in Walking Shadow. The Pardoner's true perversion, most critics agree, is not only sexual, but moral as well. In addition, the Pardoner is a distinctly mixed and ambivalent character. Is he evil? Disgusting? Yet he tells a tale with a strongly moral theme...but then when he has the audience under his spell, he makes a crass intrusion to ask for money. He's an artist, a professional, but he sells his art very cheaply. He neatly treads the boundary (one that Chaucer finds quite blurry) between artist and con-man. All very interesting. I could go on and on (a chapter of my dissertation dealt with Chaucer--The Parliament of Fowls, however, not Canterbury Tales), but I won't.")
  • "Pride, lust, envy, anger, covetousness, gluttony, and sloth" - Commonly held to be the Seven Deadly Sins. Dennis Tallett adds:

The Seven Deadly Sins - pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth were laid out in "A Catechism of Christian Doctrine for General Use, 1866" Victorian England, no doubt.

  • 'The Tiresias stuff you stole from Eliot." - See chapter 3 above.

Chapter 10:

  • "I solve all my cases...some of them are just not solved yet." - Hisao Tomihari points out that this closely resembles a quote from Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939): "There are no strangers here, only friends you have not yet met."

Chapter 11:

  • " if she were walking onto a yacht." - Paraphrased from the Carly Simon song You're So Vain. See Lyrics
  • "Here we are...sleepy-eyed and yawning...see how late it gets." - Susan Rushton writes " from a song by Hoagy Carmichael." Thanks for the info, Susan. It was written by Frank Loesser and Hoagy Carmichael and is called Two Sleepy People. See Lyrics

Chapter 17:

  • "No man is an island." - John Donne, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions [1624], no. 17. See Poetry

Chapter 19:

  • "A camel will pass through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man will enter the kingdom of heaven." - See Oft Quoted
  • "It is ever thus." - I have not tracked it down to the individual work but it seems to be Ralph Waldo Emerson. "(the battle between conservatism and innovation) is ever thus." Maybe from Conduct of Life but I didn't see it on a quick read.
  • Then again consider another of Parker's favorites, Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats. "For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!" See Poetry

Chapter 22:

  • "When condos were high and the living was easy." - A reference to Summertime from the 1935 George and Ira Gershwin musical Porgy and Bess, in collaboration with DuBose Heywood and based on his 1925 novel Porgy. "Summertime, an' the livin' is easy / Fish are jumpin' an' the cotton is high" See Lyrics
  • "I could outwait Enoch Arden if I had to." - Enoch Arden, a poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Read it at
  • "The evening stretches out against the sky..." - Paraphrased from T.S. Eliot's The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock [1917] See Poetry
  • "Live fast, die young, and have a literate corpse" - The research file on this one has grown too big to be included here. It now resides in Oft Quoted.

Chapter 25:

  • "Lenny Welch." - The lyrics Vinnie sings are from "Since I Fell For You," which put Mr. Welch on the charts in 1964. See Lyrics.
  • "When you care enough to get the very best." - Choosing which gun-toting killers to use for backup ranks right up there with finding a proper greeting card. The Hallmark company has for many years used the slogan "When you care enough to send the very best."

Chapter 27:

  • "I could smell bacon cooking. I did not think it cooked for me." - A tip of the hat to Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions by John Donne (1571?-1631) "...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Note that this is from the same source as "No man is an island" quoted above. See Poetry. Tim Healy wrote in to say that his immediate thought was of the following lines from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot: "I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. / I do not think they will sing to me." Parker quotes this poem only slightly less than he does certain lines from Shakespeare, so I agree with Tim that it is a great second level of reference.

Chapter 28:

  • "Hit the road, Jack." - Title of a song, words and music by Percy Mayfield, 1961. It was a monster hit for Ray Charles, and one of the prizes in my 45 rpm collection. See Lyrics

Chapter 29:

Chapter 31:

  • "Death Dragons, I presume." - Iain Campbell notes the following: "The original is in popular lore attributed to H.M. Stanley (sent by the New York Times) who led an expedition into 'darkest Africa' to ascertain whether Scottish explorer and missionary Dr. David Livingstone was still alive. When they met in Ujiji, Stanley phlegmatically doffed his pith helmet and uttered the words 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'"
  • "And the small rain down does fall" - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 32:

  • "I'll be passing out blue books before supper." - The college courses I took were at night school and the exams owed much to the great god "Xerox," so when a Canadian educator (frequent contributor Iain Campbell) asked me about this term I had no clue. Upon further examination I found the following at

"Blue Book. This is a term used to describe both an object and a type of exam.

  1. A blue book is a booklet containing 8X12 blank pages (some are larger), with a sky-blue cover, for use during a midterm or final exam. Students are often expected to bring their own blue books to exams. (Blue books are on sale at any of the local bookstores.)
  2. Because students use blue books most often for essay exams, you will occasionally hear this type of exam referred to as a "blue book" or a "blue book exam."
  • "The last boy scout." - Well other than being an action movie of the early 90's starring Bruce Willis and Damon Wayans, I imagine there is a quote it's derived from out there somewhere.

Chapter 33:

  • "But even if we did it your way, there's something wrong in Port City." - George Waller noted that this bears a strong resemblance to the song "Ya Got Trouble" from the 1957 Broadway musical "The Music Man," words and music by Meredith Wilson. See Lyrics

Chapter 35:

  • "They owe their soul to the company store" - Joe Salemi writes: "I owe my soul to the company store" comes from the song SIXTEEN TONS, the best-known version sung by the ever-popular Tennessee Ernie Ford. It's from the chorus: "You load 16 tons, and what do you get, / Another day older an' deeper in debt. / St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go, / I owe my soul to the company store." The story goes much deeper than that. Merle Travis wrote the song, and its recorded history is available at While you're still here, see Lyrics
  • "He was in there reading a book on the Elizabethan age by E. M. W. Tillyard" - Almost certainly The Elizabethan World Picture, published in 1959. A classic work on the ideas of world order during that time.
  • Chacun à son goût - Loosely translated, "to each his own." Thanks go to Chris McLaren for the translation.

Chapter 36:

  • "Send me your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free." - Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus: Inscription for the Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor [1883] (paraphrased).

Chapter 37:

  • Xanadu - The setting for Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem Kubla Khan [1798]; "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan / A stately pleasure-dome decree." Note that the title of A Savage Place is derived from this poem. See Poetry. Well, the word is obvious but it doesn't answer the context. The sentence reads "The last boat from Xanadu." Iain Campbell asks "Why the last boat from Xanadu? Because of the 'sunless sea?' Perhaps because of the ocean, one paragraph earlier, which is described as 'ceaseless,' which is the adjective used to describe the seething turmoil of the water in the poem." My web searches for "last boat from/to anywhere else" have led nowhere. To me "Xanadu" calls up the 1980 movie starring Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelley, a remake of the 1947 Rita Heyworth vehicle Down to Earth, which centered on Terpsichore, the Muse of Dance.

Chapter 38:

  • Hawk is reading On Race, noting that "the brother's a smart man," but I have been unable to find the name of the author. (Corey Bradford proved to be a much better detective then I. The book being referred to was "Race Matters." The clues I overlooked? Chapter 25: "Hawk was reading a book by Cornel West." Chapter 33: "Hawk was still reading Cornel West." First published in 1993, it would likely be sitting next to Parker's typewriter as he wrote this novel.) Go to the library and look it up under 305.8, West. I think you will be as impressed as I was with his take on racial issues.
My only problem is that Parker has never misquoted a title before. In twenty seven novels I've easily tracked every one of them. Why is this one different?
  • "Is this a submarine sandwich I see before me?" - A very nice Shakespearean reference. Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 1:
"Is this a dagger which I see before me,
The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch
thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?"
I like to quote the whole passage as a reminder of where the classic Star Trek series got the episode title "Daggers of the Mind."
  • "I have promises to keep" - A reference to Robert Frost's Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. See Oft Quoted and Poetry.

Chapter 41:

  • "The course of true love never did run smooth." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 42:

  • "Began to round up the usual suspects." - George Waller points out that this is an obvious reference to the line from Casablanca where Captain Renault instructs the local police to once again do this.

Chapter 44:

  • "If a detective falls in the forest...does he make a sound?" - Spenser notices once again that his actions are largely ignored. It's that old philosophical question "If a tree falls in the forest with no one to hear, does it make a sound?" See Oft Quoted
  • "since, approximately, Hector was a pup." - Doug Oleson wrote in with the following: "Here's an obscure cultural reference. 'Since Hector was a pup' is a catch phrase, a popular figure of speech, which has been around at least since the 1920's, when 'Hector' was a popular name for dogs. 'Since Hector was a pup' means 'since a long time ago,' and is actually a sort of pun, because it refers to both 'Hector' as a dog's name and another, far older, 'Hector.'" Thanks Doug; I'd heard the phrase for years but couldn't turn up anything else that made any sense. I assume "far older" refers back to the siege of Troy and a number of memorable characters that I will leave as an exercise for the student.
  • "All the world's a stage" - William Shakespeare, As You Like It [1599-1600], Act II, Scene vii, line 139. This can also be attributed to Thomas Heywood in his Apology for Actors [1612]: "The world's a theater, the earth a stage, / Which God and Nature do with actors fill." Also, Middleton said in his A Game of Chess [1624] Act V, Scene I: "The world's a stage on which all the parts are played."
  • "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" See the reference to the significance of the title, at the beginning of this section.
  • "And all the people merely players that strut and fret their moment upon the stage" - Susan's right, Spenser did mix two plays, although it certainly fits together pretty well. The "all the people merely players" is from the "All the world's a stage" reference, and the "strut and fret their moment upon the stage" is a pluralized reference from the "sound and fury" reference, both of which are noted above.

Chapter 45:

  • "Autumn leaves the west wind fleeing." - A paraphrase from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1819. "O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being, / Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead / Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing."

Chapter 48:

  • "All I get is bewitched, bothered and bewildered." - George Waller pointed out that this is the title of a song from "Pal Joey," a 1940 Broadway musical, lyrics by Lorenz Hart and music by Richard Rogers. See Lyrics

Chapter 49:

  • "Norma Desmond." - The character played by Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard, a 1950 movie about an aging silent film actress who thinks she is on the verge of being called back to Hollywood stardom. In her madness she murders a playwright, and as the police come to arrest her she poses on the balcony and utters the famous line: "I'm ready for my close-up Mr. DeMille."

Chapter 51:The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber - A short story by Ernest Hemingway (thanks Glenn).

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • Apparently, Susan loves the theater, and is a member of the board of trustees (which is how Spenser got into this case in the first place).
  • Spenser is now the proud owner of...a mortgage! Whee! They bought a house in Concord, and are having a fun time gleefully ripping the insides out so they can put in...whatever. They have established that they don't want to live together, but at least they can spend weekends here and have some large area for the baby (Pearl) to run around in. Lee's been helping Spenser do the rip-out job on the inside, and Susan's been happily cutting down every shrub and tree in sight on the outside. By the end of the story, they've put an addition onto the house and Spenser has installed some French windows.
  • It would seem that Vinnie Morris is a faster shooter than Spenser or even Hawk, as he was the first to draw and fire four shots before Hawk and Spenser even cleared their holsters. Who says gunfighting is dead? It's a damn good thing he's on Spenser's side, now. We know Vinnie is fast, in fact Spenser describes him as being able to catch flies between his thumb and forefinger. That's pretty fast...
  • Spenser's "Broo" List:
    • Chapter 28: Draft Beer, at the Port City Tap.
    • Chapter 32: Rolling Rock, at Susan's house.
    • Chapter 52: Rolling Rock (again), at the house in Concord. Call it a celebratory drink, if you like...
  • Among the guests at the Port City Theatre Company schmooze party were Myra and Bob Kraft, who own Foxboro Stadium and the New England Patriots. Interesting where people will pop up. Wonder if Spenser can wrangle free tickets out of him?
  • I need to do some reading up on how Police departments work. We have written confirmation here that he was a police detective (not a beat cop). I imagine that's all they get in D.A.'s offices, but does that make him an Assistant D.A.? At any rate, this confirms that he was a police detective at one point. Thought you might like to know.
Richard Barid responds: "District Attorney (D.A.) is an elected position. A D.A. does not spend much time actually trying cases, but hires several (usually younger) attorneys to do the litigation work. One must be an attorney in order to be an assistant D.A. However, most D.A.'s offices have investigators. Sometimes those investigators are former police detectives and sometimes they pull double duty." To be even more specific, Spenser was a detective with the State Police.
  • In Chapter 40 Spenser is hitting the office bottle and thinking. He remembers the office building that used to be across the street and Linda Thomas in the window. Talk about a blast from the past.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 3: Yes, but is it art?

"The houselights dimmed. The play began. On stage there were men dressed as women and women dressed as men, and white people in blackface and black people in whiteface, and a rabbi named O'Leary, and a priest named Cohen. I knew the names because they were printed on a big sandwich board which each of the actors wore throughout the first act. There was someone in a dog suit who kept saying meow. There was very little dialogue, and the actors moved slowly about the stage with angular gestures, stopping periodically in frozen tableau, while an offstage voice recited something ominous that sounded like a hip-hop adaptation of Thus Spake Zarathustra.
After an hour of this Susan leaned toward me and said, 'What do you think?'
'It's heavy-handed but impenetrable,' I said.
'Not an easy achievement,' Susan said."

Chapter 3: That's usually Spenser's line

"'A good shot that knows anatomy,' DeSpain said as if to himself. 'Hell, we've got the bastard cornered.'

Chapter 4: Yeah, Cambridge always gives me some sort of rash, too

"'This place is so Cambridge,' Susan said, 'it gives me goose bumps.'
'Cambridge give you goose bumps?' I said to Hawk.
'Hives,' Hawk said."

Chapter 4: The joy of political correctness

"The entrées arrived. Susan cut her tuna steak in two and put half of it aside on her butter plate. Hawk watched her.
'Trying to lose some weight?' Hawk said in a neutral voice.
'Yes. I have three or four pounds of disgusting fat that I want to get rid of.'
Hawk said, 'Un huh.'
'I know, maybe you can't see it, but it's there.'
Hawk looked at me.
'I've missed it too,' I said. 'And I'm a trained detective.'
'Remember where we are,' Susan said. 'I could have you both arrested for sexual harassment.'
'I counter with the charge of racial insensitivity,' Hawk said.
'Yes,' Susan said. 'That would be appropriate. Then we join forces against our common oppressor.'
They both turned and gazed at me.
'The white guy,' I said."

Chapter 5: But he hasn't quite perfected it yet

"The red-faced guy who had been resting his eyes let out a sort of blubbery snort and his head jerked and he looked a little puzzled for a moment about where he was. He spotted his champagne glass, still partially full, and picked it up and drained it, then he settled back in his chair and tried to look as if he knew what was going on. It was a look I had often worked on myself."

Chapter 8: It's a fixer-upper!

"'House needs a lot of work,' I said.
'We prefer the term, 'great potential,' the real-estate lady said.
'I bet you do,' I said.
'In this price range. In a lower price range we would prefer the term "handyman's special,"' she said."

Chapter 10: Let your blackjacks do the sapping...

"'Do you ever get a case where there are no clues? You know, when you can, like, never figure out who did it?'
'I solve all my cases,' I said. 'Some of them are just not solved yet.'
Dierdre clapped quietly.
'Great line,' she said.
'Thanks, I'm trying it out for my ad in the Yellow Pages.'"

Chapter 13: Let me counter your offer with this suggestion...

"My gun was a Smith and Wesson .357. Six rounds. It had a blued finish and a walnut grip, and it was alleged to stop a charging bear. Normally, unless I expected to encounter a bear, I carried a comfy little .38. But for office use the .357 was an effective negotiating tool."

Chapter 13: Funny, we were just talking about you...

"When I got Homicide I asked for Lt. Quirk. He picked up his phone, still talking to someone, and held it while he finished the conversation.
'Fuck ATF,' he said to someone. 'They got their problems, we got ours.'
Then he spoke into the phone.
'Hi,' I said, 'This is the ATF charitable fund...'"

Chapter 14: Truth in advertising

"'You think it's a tong thing?' Hawk said.
'I don't know.'
'You think Wu's involved in the killing?'
'I don't know.'
'You saying that a lot.'
'Yeah, I'm thinking about having it printed on my business cards.'"

Chapter 15: Anthropology lessons

"'What if we're wrong.'
'I'm not usually wrong.'
'That's because you're closer to the jungle than I am. But maybe we better be sure.'
'Besides,' Hawk said. 'They never had no jungles in Ireland. Your ancestors just paint themselves blue and run around in the peat bogs.'
'Well, it was a damned nice blue,' I said."

Chapter 16: 1001 uses for a can of Diet Coke

"I settled for spring water, hoping not to sever a limb with the Sawzall, and Lee did the same. Susan had a Diet Coke, warm. Farrell stared at it.
'Diet Coke? Warm?'
'I hate cold things,' Susan said.
'People clean battery terminals with warm Diet Coke,' Farrell said.
'That's their privilege,' Susan said and drank some."

Chapter 18: Bas cuisine

"Vinnie was looking for ways to improve his corn muffin. He broke off a piece and dunked it in his coffee, and ate it.
'Any improvement?' I said.
'Still tastes like a Frisbee,' Vinnie said."

Chapter 19: Spenser, master of the simile

"Vinnie and Hawk lounged in the theater lobby, blending in to the theatrical scene like two coyotes at a poultry festival."

Chapter 22: Yet another reason to quit: It might help you avoid a hail of bullets

"I no longer smelled the cigarette smoke. My nose had gotten used to it. If I hadn't quit smoking twenty-five years ago, I'd probably have opened my front door without noticing anything and walked right into a bullet with others following hard upon. Further argument to confound the Tobacco Institute."

Chapter 23: Now there's a catchy line

"He said something to Herman. Herman shook his head.
'Wants a cigarette,' Herman said.
'Tell him he'll get one just before the blindfold.'"

Chapter 23: Not the stuff we usually learn in Spanish 101

"Yan smiled faintly and looked at Herman while Herman translated. His smile widened a little as he listened. Then he spoke very fast to Herman.
'Says you must be on something. Says his lawyer's going to show up inside of an hour and he's going to walk. Says the streets are crowded with people got busted on worse than what you got. Says you're an asshole.'
'What's the Chinese word for asshole?' I said.
Herman smiled.
'Loose translation,' he said."

Chapter 24: Does the phrase 'shooting a sparrow with a cannon' mean anything here?

"Pearl had located a crow at the very top of a large white pine, and was pointing it with quivering immobility. Paw up, nose extended, tail straight out, every part of her shouting soundlessly, 'There's a bird.'
'Want me to shoot it for her?' Vinnie said. A .12-gauge pump gun was leaning on the picnic table.
'No,' Susan said. 'She's gun-shy.'
'What you got for load in there?' Hawk said.
'Won't leave much bird,' Hawk said.
'I didn't load it for birds,' Vinnie said."

Chapter 22: It's right there in the handy "Thug Phrasebook for Beginners"

"I held up Sampson's picture again.
'Ever see him in here?' I said.
'Who wants to know?'
I looked carefully over each shoulder and slowly around the room, and back at the bartender.
'Must be me,' I said.
'You looking for trouble?'
I grinned at him.
'If I say yes, will you tell me I've come to the right place?'
The bartender opened and closed his mouth. I knew I had stepped on his next line."

Chapter 29: Spenser never made much progress in obedience school, either

"'My word is my bond,' I said. 'I'll be happy to back it up.'
'In front of the baby?'
'She could wait in the next room,' I said.
'She'll cry and scratch at the door,' Susan said.
'I know the feeling.'
'On the other hand, if we don't put her out she'll jump on the bed and bark.'
'I know that feeling too.'"

Chapter 30: Pays to be good at your job

"With me was a young woman named Mei Ling, who was fluent in English, French, German, Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, and, for all I knew, Martian."

Chapter 32: One in every port

"'Dr. Silverman. This will be hard to hear, maybe, but you need to know. Your boyfriend is not faithful to you. I know this from personal experience, which I regret. But you have the right to know. I am not the first one.'
There was a pause, then the sound of the phone hanging up. Susan hit the stop button and looked at me.
I looked sheepishly at her.
'That damned Madonna,' I said. 'Can't keep her mouth shut.'"

Chapter 38: The peak of one's existence?

'Either of you got a VCR?' I said.
Hawk shook his head. 'Already seen "Debbie Does Dallas,"' he said."

Chapter 41: Virtue is its own reward, but pass the A1 sauce

"Healy ignored me and cut into his steak.
'You want to give me the name of your next of kin?' I said.

Healy grinned.

'My cholesterol is about 150,' he said. 'I weigh the same as I did when I got out of the Marine Corps.'
I looked at my cold seafood assortment. I looked at Healy's steak. I was glad I wasn't eating it. I was glad I was eating cold seafood. Cold seafood was virtuous."

Chapter 44: We all develop a special language with our pets....don't we?

"I heard Susan's key in the door. Pearl exploded off the couch, put one hind foot in my groin, and dashed at Susan as she came in.
Susan said something to her that sounded like 'fudding wuddying pudding,' but maybe wasn't, and came on into the living room and gave me a kiss."


  • Chapter 5: Grazing the buffet at the Board meeting.
  • Chapter 11: Assorted dim sum at Wu's.
  • Chapter 14: Coffee and plain doughnuts at the Happy Haddock coffee shop.
  • Chapter 16: Turkey, lettuce, tomato and sweet mustard on fresh whole wheat bread from a sandwich shop in town while working on the house in Concord. Also bread and butter pickles and spring water.
  • Chapter 17: Coffee and a donut in a diner on South Street.
  • Chapter 18: Coffee and a corn muffin at the Puffin Muffin.
  • Chapter 24: Lunch break at the Concord house with Susan, Hawk, and Vinnie. Vinnie at least has a smoked turkey sandwich. I assume this is pretty much a repeat of chapter 16.
  • Chapter 25: Coffee and donuts at the office.
  • Chapter 29: A picnic supper that Susan brought to the Concord house: green apples, cold chicken, seedless grapes, French bread, cranberry chutney, and a significant wedge of cheese.
  • Chapter 32: Brunswick stew is simmering at Susan's.
  • Chapter 38: A submarine sandwich, no onions. An elegant lunch.
  • Chapter 41: Cold seafood assortment at the Capital Grill.
  • Chapter 45: Spaghetti late at night. Orange juice the next morning.
  • Chapter 52: Hawk and Mei Ling bring an assortment of Chinese food out to Concord.


  • Chapter 2: Beer at the bar in Wu's.
  • Chapter 5: Beer at the Board meeting.
  • Chapter 28: Draught beer at the Port City Tap.
  • Chapter 29: Krug champagne to go with the picnic supper at the house in Concord.
  • Chapter 32: Rolling Rock at Susan's.
  • Chapter 40: A little Irish whiskey at the office.
  • Chapter 41: Absolut martini at the Capital Grill.
  • Chapter 44: A double vodka martini at Susan's on the rocks with a twist. And many more to follow.
  • Chapter 52: Rolling Rock at the Concord house.


  • In Chapter 38 the videotape arrives with the mail when Spenser, Hawk, and Vinnie are sitting around the office. He calls Susan, who tells him she is free from 1:00 to 3:00 and they can watch the tape. From Chapter 32 we know that Susan does not answer the phone during office hours, letting the machine pick it up, and her office hours usually start at nine o-clock. So, when did the guys get to the office that morning and what time is his mail delivered? Seems a little early to me.
  • Chapter 46: "I pulled the telephone over and called Hawk." The first and only time he has known where to call Hawk direct. Every other time he calls Henry and asks him to pass on a message. A few people have suggested that Hawk has a cell phone now, but it doesn't wash. Future books go back to messages relayed through Henry.
  • The nose knows: In chapter 22 Spenser is saved by his sense of smell. "I no longer smelled the cigarette smoke. My nose had gotten used to it. If I hadn't quit smoking twenty-five years ago, I'd probably have opened my front door without noticing anything and walked right into a bullet with others following hard upon. Further argument to confound the Tobacco Institute." See Oft Quoted
  • I smell a catch phrase: This is one of the first ones where an officer of the law gives the private eye confidential information and tells him not to take it. See Police Business
  • Oops: Thom Brannan pointed out a typo in chapter 22. "I was wearing the Browning .9 mm on my hip with a round in the chamber and 13 in the clip." The typist at the publishing house was apparently used to such sizes as .357 and .44, but a decimal point is out of place when dealing with millimeters. Point nine millimeters works out to about .0354 inches, or about 1/32". That would be a mighty slim bullet indeed.
  • Show me the money: Ah, the magic of the theater. Another freebie.

Previous book: Paper Doll • Next book: Thin Air