Widow's Walk  
Series Spenser
Publisher G.P. Putnam's Sons
Publication date 2002
Media type hardcover
ISBN 0-399-14710-1
Preceded by Potshot
Followed by Back Story

I took this picture of a Widow's Walk while strolling down Linnaean Street.

Cover InformationEdit

"Joan, Dave, and Dan: the rest is decoration."

From the dust jacket of the hard cover edition:

When fifty-one-year-old Nathan Smith, a once-confirmed bachelor, is found in his bed with a hole in his head made by a .38-caliber slug, it's hard not to imagine Nathan's young bride as the one with her finger on the trigger. Even her lawyer thinks she's guilty. But given that Mary Smith is entitled to the best defense she can afford-and thanks to Nathan's millions, she can afford plenty-Spenser hires on to investigate Mary's bona fides. Mary's alibi is a bit on the flimsy side: She claims she was watching television in the other room when the murder occurred. But the couple was seen fighting at a high-profile cocktail party earlier that evening, and the prosecution has a witness who says Mary once tried to hire him to kill Nathan. What's more, she's too pretty, too made-up, too blonde, and sleeps around-just the kind of person a jury loves to hate.

Spenser's up against a wall; leads go nowhere, no one knows a thing. Then a young woman, recently fired from her position at Smith's bank, turns up dead. Mary's vacant past suddenly starts looking meaner and darker-and Spenser's suddenly got to watch his back.

With lean, crackling dialogue, crisp action, and razor-sharp characters, Widow's Walk is another triumph.

Recurring CharactersEdit

In order of appearance:

  • Rita Fiore, whose legs are as lovely as ever.
  • Captain Quirk, Homicide Commander.
  • Sgt. Frank Belson, Quirk's longtime aide de camp.
  • Frank's wife Lisa is mentioned.
  • Susan, a suitable companion.
  • Pearl, aging wonder dog.
  • Henry Cimoli, small but very upscale.
  • Hawk, a friend indeed.
  • Race Witherspoon, fashion photographer, last seen way back in God Save the Child.
  • Vinnie Morris, who was disappointed that no one needed to be shot.
  • Candy Sloan is mentioned several times on the subject of getting over feelings of failure.
  • Owen Brooks, African-American D.A., Suffolk County.
  • Russo, who works for Owen Brooks. He was mentioned in passing back in Playmates.

Unanswered QuestionsEdit

They are legion, and rather than go over them twice I've moved them to the Notes section further down the page.

Literary References, or "The Annotated Gumshoe"Edit

Significance of the title: This entry got out of hand and I had to put it on a page of its own. See Widow's Walk: the Title

Significance of the Dedication: "The rest is decoration." - "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. This is the law: all the rest is commentary." Talmud, Shabbat 31a.

Chapter 1:

  • "Last time I worked for you I almost got killed." - That was in Small Vices, where he was shot several times by Rugar.
  • "What about the Easter bunny." - Rita seems just a bit skeptical about full disclosure from the prosecution. See Easter Bunny

Chapter 2:

  • "Dr. Kevorkian." - Doctor Death or The Angel of Mercy, depending on your view of assisted suicide, Jack Kevorkian has helped close to 50 people with terminal illnesses or debilitating conditions shuffle off this mortal coil at a time of their own choosing. Chemical injections or carbon dioxide poisoning, which he set up but did not administer, are the usual means. Handguns are rather outside his specialty.

Chapter 4:

  • "It follows as the night the day." - From Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Act 1 scene 3. Polonius says: "To thine own self be true, and it follows as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." I've always imagined Laertes' eyes rolling up in his head as the old fellow rambled on. Of course the best part was when Polonius ended his advise with the immortal words: "But trust me on the sunscreen." (Thanks to Arthur Martin for reminding me that Hamlet was not in that scene as I originally wrote in this entry. I was probably thinking of the Mel Gibson movie version where he was eavesdropping from the battlement.)
  • "But I'm not forgetting what I owe you...When Lisa was gone." - That was in Thin Air. Of course Spenser can't acknowledge that he's owed a favor; by The Code only Belson can bring that up.

Chapter 8:

  • "Of all the banks, in all the world, you had to walk into mine." - Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca. See Oft Quoted
  • "We'll always have Cambridge." - Ditto, Paris.

Chapter 10:

  • "Well, there's Roy...And there's Siegfreid." - While implying that Graff could be a little more specific Spenser is referring to a duo who have been wowing the folks in Vegas for some time now. Let me give you the full treatment:
"If you love magic, if you love being completely mystified, then you'll love the world-famous illusionists Siegfried & Roy. This 'show of the century' (Time Magazine) was directed by John Napier, the Tony award-winning artist responsible for such theatrical triumphs as 'Cats', 'Starlight Express', 'Les Misérables' and 'Phantom of the Opera'. The show features 88 cast members -- plus the Royal White Tigers and the White Lions of Timbavati. More than three million people have attended the show to date."
I prefer Penn and Teller's more sarcastic take on illusions but your mileage may vary.

Chapter 11:

  • "Me and my shadow." - Strolling down Route 495. A popular number from 1927 that resonates as good now as it did then. Music by Al Jolson and Dave Dreyer, lyrics by Billy Rose. See Lyrics
  • "Near the college." - In Franklin that would be Dean College. "Dean College has a strong tradition of tapping student potential through quality education and providing a pathway to academic success, student confidence and the baccalaureate degree. At Dean, students embrace education as a total living and learning experience in a supportive community of academics, athletics, activities and technology."

Chapter 14:

  • 0172828-FASHION-WOMENS-1874-American-fashion-print-from-Godeys-Lady-Book-of-the-latest-styles-from-Paris-July-1874

    Godey print, 1874.

    "Like a lady in a Godey print." - In 1830 Louis Antoine Godey started publishing a magazine called "Godey's Ladys Book" to educate, inform, and entertain American women.

Chapter 15:

  • Zephyrview

    Zephyr in the Hyatt

    "Zephyr in the Hyatt Hotel in Cambridge." - If you must taste martinis with unusual ingredients at least choose a spot with a nifty view. If I may quote: "Zephyr On The Charles is a new restaurant with a creative dining concept, 'small plates' of eclectic cuisine with no culinary boundaries. Zephyr will also feature Flight Tastings of Martinis, a great selection of wines by the glass, specialty draft beers and signature libations."

Chapter 19:

  • "Those were the days, my friend." - In 1963 Gene Raskin took the music from an old Russian song and fitted it with new lyrics in English. Mary Hopkins had the mega hit with her recording for Apple Records in 1968. Find out a lot more at See Lyrics
  • "I haven't put in all those hours on the StairMaster to hide my butt under a bushel." - Matthew 5:15 "Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house." As does Rita's butt, apparently.

Chapter 21:

  • "I'm going to get one soon." - In Sudden Mischief we found out that he does have a computer, an Apple product he bought because Susan has one. My guess is he's goofing on Ethel Graffino's enthusiasm, which is at least ten years out of date for the rest of us.
  • "We never sleep." - See Oft Quoted

Chapter 22:

  • "Karen Horney...The tyrannical shoulds" - I found the following at "Karen Horney (1885-1952) was a pioneering theorist in personality, psychoanalysis, and 'feminine psychology.' The neurotic's self is split into an ideal self and a despised self. One's ideal self is created when one feels they are lacking in some area of life and are not living up to the ideals that they should be. What they "should" be is their ideal. This ideal self is not a positive goal, nor is it realistic or possible. The despised self, on the other hand, is the feeling that one is hated by all around them; one assumes that this hated being is their true self. The neurotic, therefore, swings back and forth between pretending to

be perfect and hating themselves. Horney called this inner battle the 'tyranny of the shoulds' and the neurotic's 'striving for glory.' These two impossible selves prevent the neurotic from ever reaching their potential."

  • "Nature of the beast" - Parker last used this phrase way back in chapter 2 of The Godwulf Manuscript. Ronald van Raaij wrote in to point out the classic story of the scorpion and the fox. "A fox who agrees to carry a scorpion on its back across a river, upon the condition that the scorpion does not sting him. But the scorpion does indeed sting the fox when they are in midstream. As the fox begins to drown, taking the scorpion with him, he pleadingly asks why the scorpion has jeopardized both of them by stinging. 'Because it's my nature.'"
  • Additional info: Adele Connelly wrote in with something closer to Parker's usual sources: "I think that this phrase, "the nature of the beast" should be attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson. The full quotation and attribution are below and I believe is the source of Parker's quote. Just a thought."
QUOTATION: A mob is a society of bodies voluntarily bereaving themselves of reason, and traversing its work. The mob is man voluntarily descending to the nature of the beast.
ATTRIBUTION: Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Compensation," Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).
  • "Four girls from Radcliffe went past us in various stages of undress." - As I've noted before, you can't throw a croissant in Cambridge without hitting an institute of higher learning. One of the entrances to the Radcliffe campus opens onto Linnaean Street just down from the supposed location of Susan's house. The girls were probably heading to or from the Porter Square area (see the photo tour "A Walk down Linnaean Street" on the Articles and Pictures page.)

Chapter 24:

Chapter 26:

  • "Gayer than springtime" - A spoof on "Younger Than Springtime" from the 1949 musical South Pacific, based on the book Tales of the South Pacific by James A. Michener. Music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein. See Lyrics
  • "Set a queer to capture a queer." - From the old saying "Set a thief to capture a thief." Who would know better where and what to look for?

Chapter 28:

  • "Pike looked at me like I'd asked about the Easter bunny." - Again with the lovable rabbit. See Easter Bunny

Chapter 30:

  • "Galleria food court." - A standard food court in a standard mall with a very nice view. It's located along a small canal jutting out from the Charles River which features a cute looking fountain and a dock for scenic boat rides.
  • Au Bon Pain, Burger King, Cajun Big Easy, Cinnabon, D'Angelos Sandwich

Shop, Sbarro Italian Eatery, Sakkio Japan, Taco Bell. You can cut and paste this mix from anywhere in America and not notice the difference.

Chapter 32:

  • "Bubeleh." - A yiddish word, literally "little bubi, or grandmother", but is used as a term of endearment for anyone, any age, any gender. Race Witherspoon does not stand out as a Jewish name, but he is an artistic and flamboyant individual who paints his life on as wide a canvas as possible. Then again he may have been channeling the spirit of Barbara Streisand.
  • "Year and a half ago the Rams won the Super bowl." - Looking at the publication date that would be the 2001 victory of the St. Louis Rams over the Tennessee Titans by a score of 23-16. As a non-sports fan I remembered the former as playing for LA and never heard of the latter. Professional teams don't seem to care who they spread their legs for anymore.

Chapter 34:

  • "Hot Diggity." - A gentleman from Japan wrote in soon after the book was published to ask whether this was a common American expression. After quite a bit of poking around I realized that Parker has been using this one for years, and put the results of my research on the Oft Quoted page.

Chapter 35:

  • "Six degrees of separation." - The idea that everyone in the United States is connected to everyone else by a chain of not more than six others. It's based on

an experiment carried out by psychologist Stanley Milgram in 1967 and has been repeated with similar results.

  • Stockard Channing and Will Smith starred in the 1993 movies written by John Guare based on his 1990 play of the same name.
  • It has also led, somehow, to the Kevin Bacon Game. The aim is to link the actor to any other via the fewest number of intermediaries. Just for the fun of it I tried it with those who have played in the Spenser adaptations and put the results in Six Degrees of Spenser.

Chapter 36:

  • "Client confidentiality is job one." - Mary Wells Lawrence, who started the Wells Rich Greene advertising agency, came up with the slogan "Quality is Job One" for the Ford Motor Company in the mid 1990's. She also is credited with one of the most successful slogans in ad history: "I Love New York."
  • "I owe you, Spenser"..."You don't owe me a thing, Frank" - See Debts among subscribers to the code

Chapter 37:

Chapter 38:

  • "White mans burden." - When the phrase "The white person's burden" was used in Hush Money Iain Campbell noted: "Spenser rephrases Kipling in politically correct language. Citation: Kipling, Rudyard. 'The White Man's Burden.' McClure's Magazine 12 (Feb. 1899)." See Poetry

Chapter 39:

  • "Tote that bale." - The same scrambling of the words he used way back in Valediction. "Tote that barge and lift that bale" are part of the song Ol' Man River from the musical Showboat. See Lyrics

Chapter 40:

  • "Snoop Doggy Dog." - Quirk is implying that Spenser is acting as a snoop (n. one who pries in a sneaking or interfering way). Snoop Doggy Dog is the stage name of rap artist Calvin Broadus, supposedly given to him because of his resemblance to the Peanuts character Snoopy.

Chapter 41:

  • "For a good time call 555-1212." - A somewhat obscure double reference. Precede it nowadays with an area code and it will connect you to local directory assistance. "555" is of course the exchange which doesn't exist, created after too many idiots dialed numbers that appeared in works of fiction and annoyed innocent bystanders in their own area. But in the days Parker and I come from, before the 911 system, there was a convention used in most towns for easy-to-remember emergency numbers. My hometown had an exchange of 653, so 653-1212 connected you with the Police, 653-2323 with the Fire Department. Of course it wasn't 653 back then, it was Olympic 3, but that's a whole 'nuther piece of history. Which usage is Parker referring to? Your guess is as good as mine.
Note: Our foreign correspondent Iain Campbell added the following detail: "I hadn't thought about it in decades, but Whitehall 1212 used to be the number of Scotland Yard in London."
  • "The more we look, the more there's nothing there." - Parker last used this back in Ceremony. Iain Campbell found it from the pen of A.A. Milne: "This quotation is from The House at Pooh Corner, Ch.1, beginning: 'One day when Pooh Bear had nothing else to do, he thought he would do something, so he went round to Piglet's house to see what Piglet was doing. It was still snowing as he stumped over the white forest track, and he expected to find Piglet warming his toes in front of his fire, but to his surprise he saw that the door was open, and the more he looked inside the more Piglet wasn't there.'"

Chapter 43:

  • "Why this is therapy nor am I out of it." - Parker last used this allusion way back in Valediction, so I'll copy that entry here: A take on a line from Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe. Mephistopheles explains why the Earth is no more comforting to him than Hell.
Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
Thinkest thou that I, who saw the face of God
And tasted the eternal joys of heaven,
Am not tormented with ten thousand hells
In being deprived of everlasting bliss?

Chapter 44:

  • "The Brink's Robbery." - A legendary caper pulled off in Boston on 17 January 1950 netting several million dollars, of which very little was ever recovered. Thanks to Iain Campbell for pointing out that I neglected to explain this item. See for more details.

Chapter 45:

  • Ficklefinger
    "The fickle finger of suspicion." - The source of this one went a little deeper than I originally expected. There was a Spanish movie released in 1967 starring Tab Hunter with the name "El Dedo del destino." In the same year two versions dubbed in English were released in America; one was called "The Cup of St. Sebastian" and the other "The Fickle Finger of Fate." The latter phrase has passed into common usage meaning "the chances in life, the way life changes unpredictably, that's life." Most of us remember it from the wildly popular television comedy "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" which ran from 1968-1973. The two hosts would relate a humorous and ironic story from the weeks news and award a symbolic trophy for the "Fickle Finger of Fate."
  • "Jay Gatsby." - Parker has pretty much summed up the major thrust of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Chapter 46:

  • "One never knows, do one?" - Parker claims that as a writer he is too aware of the details to enjoy reading fiction about other detectives except for those by his friend Elmore "Dutch" Leonard, but this one made me think he has his own guilty pleasures. It was the catch phrase of Archibald McNally, star of an outstanding series of novels by the late lamented Lawrence Sanders. Then again Sam Farris traced it back further: "Although Archie McNally has said this, I believe Hawk (and RBP) is quoting the immortal jazz pianist Thomas 'Fats' Waller, who originated the phrase in the 1941 movie Ain't Misbehavin'.It's more in line with Hawk's character, no?" Now that I've done a little more research I agree that Bob and Dutch were both referring to the line by Mr. Waller.
  • "Loved not wisely but too well." - From Othello by William Shakespeare, Act 5, scene 2, line 344, in regards to how he felt about Desdemona: "Then you must speak of one that loved not wisely but too well"
  • "Thinking of faraway places." - With strange sounding names, no doubt. Written by J. Whitney by A. Kramer in 1948, Bing Crosby made a big hit out of it. See Lyrics

Chapter 48:

  • "Why not visit all the many gay places, the come-what-may-places." - From the song "Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn. Nat "King" Cole recorded it in 1949 and his daughter did it again in 1991 on her tribute album "Unforgettable with love." See Lyrics
  • "Known them all already, known them all." - Our old friend J. Alfred Prufrock, once again measuring out his life with coffee spoons. See Poetry

Chapter 52:

  • Milkbottle
    "The milk bottle thing." - Hood's Milk started as a family owned business in the 1800's. The wonderfully cheesy milk bottle was built in 1930 and moved to it's present location in front of the Children's Museum in 1977 where it serves as a hot dog and ice cream stand.

Chapter 53:

  • "Can't win if there's no chance of losing." - It's why they put up a net in tennis, and another reference to "Death is the mother of beauty." See Oft Quoted

Chapter 56:

  • "Quarter to three." - A phrase made famous in the song One For My Baby by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen. See Lyrics

Chapter 58:

  • "We never sleep." - But we do repeat ourselves. See chapter 21 above.

Chapter 59:

  • "Remember the scene with Sharon Stone." - The infamous "swiveling her chair around and maybe revealing her crotch" in Basic Instinct, a 1982 film in which she starred with Michael Douglas. I've heard that the DVD, advanced frame by frame, answers the question in the affirmative.

Chapter 61:

  • "Blue Hills reservation." - We haven't been here since Spenser met Rose and Jane at the observatory up top way back in Promised Land. If you'd like to see where Spenser parked visit The Tower.
  • "Soon there'd probably be a plague of locusts." - Iain Campbell notes that this is a reference to Exodus 10: 3-5. "The preceding plague was torrential hail, close enough to rain, I suppose." Sure, but if Moses had faced Pharaoh with New England weather it would have scared him even more.
  • "Encased in a crystal silence." - Memo to self: on the next reread of the series make up a list of times silence has been called crystalline. Then burn the list.

Chapter 62:

  • "She loved not wisely but too well." - see ch. 46 above.

Meanwhile, in the Spenser UniverseEdit

  • After the suicide of a client under her care, Spenser helps Susan navigate the same rough ground he trod after the death of Candy Sloan in A Savage Place. His reaction at the time ("some bodyguard") was a contributing factor to their breakup in the story arc that was finally resolved in A Catskill Eagle.
  • The Harbor Health Club continues to go upscale. In this book Henry has added valet parking.
  • Hawk is reading History of Britain by Simon Schama.

Favorite LinesEdit

Chapter 1: Rita, the voice of experience

" 'Everybody knows about powder residue anyway,' I said. 'She could have worn gloves.'
'Police didn't find them.'
'You can flush those latex jobs down the toilet like a condom.'
'I've heard that can happen,' Rita said.
'I bet you have,' I said.
'I meant about the gloves,' Rita said.
'Oh.' "

Chapter 2: It may be dumb but it's learned some nifty tricks

" 'So maybe she's smarter than we think she is.'
'Even is she were much smarter than we think she is...'
'She's not capable of trickery?'
'Talk to her,' Quirk said. 'And get back to me.'
'You don't think it's a double fake,' I said.
'She's dumber than my dick,' Quirk said.
'That dumb?' I said.
'But better-looking,' Quirk said.' "

Chapter 3: Here's a little number I like to call "You're dumber than Marty's dick"

"Graff took a small tape recorder from his briefcase.
'You don't mind if we tape this, do you?' he said.
'I wish I'd known,' I said. 'I'd have brought my arrangements.'
'What arrangements?' Mary said.
Graff said, 'It's a joke, Mary.'"

Chapter 6: Fearless but sentimental

"'If she has to be put away, can you do it?' I said.
'Because you can't?'
'I don't know about can't,' I said. 'But if you can do it I'll let you.'
'I thought you were fearless,' Susan said.
'I am, but it's embarrassing for a guy as fearless as I am to cry in the vet's office.'
'But it's okay for me?'
'Sure,' I said. 'You're a girl.'
'How enlightened,' Susan said."

Chapter 16: Spenser, master of dialects

" 'So it is your professed intention,' Hawk said, 'to continue visiting with principals in the case until you get a discernible reaction from those monitoring your movements?'
'That be my professed intention, bro,' I said. 'You be down with that?'
'Jesus Christ,' Hawk said.
'I don't sound like an authentic ghetto-bred Negro?' I said.
'You sound like an asshole,' Hawk said.
'Well,' I said. 'There's that.' "

Chapter 17: Punchline: there were no skid marks before the stockbroker's body.

" 'So you think she murdered her husband, but you still need her permission to give me access to something as innocuous as his monthly statements?'
'I have a fiduciary responsibility here. I can't betray it. If I did, and word got around, who would trust me?'
'You're a stockbroker,' I said. 'You think people trust you now?' "

Chapter 21: And I've heard rumors about telephones with push buttons instead of dials

"'It'll only be a minute.' she said. 'Computers, you know, they've revolutionized record-keeping.'
'I'm going to get one soon,' I said.
'They're here to stay,' she said."

Chapter 25: Philosophical Cooking 101

"'Are you sure you're cooking those scallops long enough?' she said.
'Of what can we be sure.' I said, 'in this uncertain world?'
'We're not going to discuss the nature of being, are we?' Susan said.
'Thank God.'
'Or whoever,' I said."

Chapter 29: There were no skid marks before the lawyer either.

"'You have any reason to think she was suicidal?' I said.
'The police asked me the same thing,' Maggie Mills said. 'And I'll answer you the same thing I answered them. I'm an attorney, not a psychiatrist. I don't know what someone is like when they are suicidal. But it seems odd to me, personally, that she would hire a lawyer and then kill herself.'
'At least until the bill came.' "

Chapter 38: We're not going to find many skid marks on this case, are we?

"'There got to be some money in here someplace,' Hawk said.
'See, that's just the reason you're a hooligan and I'm a detective,' I said. 'You jump to conclusions. I search for clues.'
'Here's a clue,' Hawk said. 'A banker, a financial guy, a real estate developer, and a lawyer. All connected in some way to a homicide.'
'Gee, you think there's money involved.?'
'How I know. You the detective. I is just a hoo-li-gan.'
'At least we're clear on that,' I said. 'Maybe we should revisit Jack DeRosa.'
'The jailbird? Why him?'
'Can't think of anybody else?' I said.
Hawk grinned.
' 'Least he fit on the list,' Hawk said. 'Right after lawyer.' "

Chapter 39: What kind of fertilizer do you use on a rock garden?

"We walked across the street to a brick duplex, which had a tiny front yard that had been carpeted with gray stone and surrounded by a chain-link fence. The downstairs windows were grated. There was a peephole in the front door.
'DeRosa don't seem interested in botany,' Hawk said.
'He's probably just a renter,' I said.
'Landlord's a geologist?' Hawk said."

Chapter 40: The non-minority person's burden

'You bother me,' Quirk said. 'I know you wouldn't have aced these two people, then come back a week later and called us.'
Hawk smiled some more.
'And I know that when you're with Snoop Doggy Dog here, you may not be on the up-and-up, but you're probably not illegal.'
Hawk's smile seemed almost sweet as he listened to Quirk.
'On the other hand,' Quirk said, 'I hate to come upon a double homicide and find you lingering about and give you a bye.'
I said, 'I'm pretty sure he didn't do it, Captain.'
'I'm pretty sure he didn't, too' Quirk said. 'But not because you say so.'
'My word is my bond,' I said.
'I don't know what the connection is between you two clowns, but I know you'd cover for him.'
'White guilt,' I said. 'My ancestors might have owned slaves.'
'Yo' ancestors being bog-trotting paddies didn't have the money to own no slaves,' Hawk said.
I looked at him sadly. 'You wouldn't understand,' I said. 'It's a white thing.'

Chapter 41: Lord Peter Wimsey never had to put up with this kind of back talk

"A mailman in blue shorts came in carrying a packet of mail held together by a wide rubber band. He looked around.
'You guys moving out?' He said.
'Just rehabbing,' I said. 'Closed for a couple of weeks.'
'You oughta notify us, fill out a form, have us hold your mail until you're back in business.'
'What a very good idea,' I said. 'My man here will be down to the post office later today to fill out the documents.'
'It's just a form,' the mailman said. 'What do I do with this mail?'
'I'll take it,' I said.
He handed me the mail and left.
'My man be down to the post office?' Hawk said.
'I'm cleaning up my act,' I said. 'There was a time I would have said my boy.'
'I love a liberal,' Hawk said."

Chapter 49: It's just part of the job, guys

"'I hear you know Rita Fiore,' Santoro said.
'You work for the Norfolk DA when she was there?' I said.
Santoro looked reminiscent. 'I did,' he said.
'I'm working for her now,' I said.
'Getting any fringe benefits?' Santoro said.
'Rita and I are friends,' I said with dignity.
'And Rita's got no enemies,' Santoro said."

Chapter 50: Don't make me go in there, Captain, I can't take any more

"'I'm going to call her attorney,' Quirk said. 'Have her come in with Mrs. Smith for a dignified interview.'
'Homicide commander doesn't usually get down to this level of nitty-gritty,' I said. 'Does he? Or she?'
'In this case, he,' Quirk said. 'Lotta people been killed. And the suspect is worth a large amount of money.'
'So you're hearing about it.'
'Mayor's up for reelection,' Quirk said. 'He's been bragging about the crime rate.'
'So you're showing a laudable hands-on interest.'
Quirk nodded. He might have almost smiled a little.
'And there are personnel issues,' he said.
Belson kept his eyes on the road as he spoke over his right shoulder.
'I told Quirk I'd take early retirement,' he said, 'before I'd go one-on-one with Mary Smith again.'
'The power of dumb,' I said."

Chapter 56: 'Champagne, compliments of the house.' That one always works

"'How you going to get in?' Vinnie said.
'Maybe I'll knock on the door, like in the movies, tell him there's a message?'
Vinnie grinned. 'And he says slip it under the door.'
'And I say he's got to sign for it.'
'And the dope jumps up and opens the door.'
'Or he tells me to blow,' I said. 'Especially if nobody knows he's here and how could they send him a message.'
'Always works in the movies,' Vinnie said."


  • Chapter 6: Plans for cold chicken, fruit salad, and fresh biscuits at his place.
  • Chapter 9: Turkey burger at Harbor Health Club.
  • Chapter 10: Corn muffins at the office.
  • Chapter 12: Ham sandwich with no-calorie butter-flavored cooking spray ala Susan.
  • Chapter 19: Ham and cheese on light rye at Rita's office.
  • Chapter 25: Pasta tossed with green peas, sautéed scallops, and pesto served with French bread at his house.
  • Chapter 34: Fruit smoothie with frozen strawberries and a nectarine at home. Raspberry turnover (made with Lard) at the office courtesy of Hawk.
  • Chapter 37: A sandwich at Aujord'hui in the Four Seasons Hotel.
  • Chapter 51: Cranberry muffins in the coffee shop.
  • Chapter 53: Egg salad with Miracle Whip, chopped celery, and Bibb lettuce on white bread ala Susan. Served with cherry tomatoes and cornichons (tiny sour gerkins; it's a French thing.)


  • Chapter 14: Two martinis at the Ritz with Rita.
  • Chapter 15: Martini at Zephyr.
  • Chapter 22: Heinekens on the front steps of Susan's House.
  • Chapter 23: Draft beer at the place on Friend Street.
  • Chapter 25: Beer with the meal at his house.
  • Chapter 31: Beer in the bar at the Hotel Meridian.
  • Chapter 35: Scotch and soda with Ann Kiley.
  • Chapter 55: Reisling with the egg salad.


  • I smell a catch phrase: Once again the gumshoe is handed confidential information by the police, in this case Belson's notebook in chapter 36. See Police Business
  • While the story itself was interesting Parker had more trouble than usual keeping track of the details:
  • In chapter 1 it is noted that Mary and Nathan Smith had a "huge fight" at a party the night he died and he slapped her face. This was an early clue that she may have had reason to kill him but it was never mentioned again and from what we later learned it was totally against Nathan's character and their relationship.
  • Rita also stated that she could supply a list of who Mary cheated with. Even treating it as hyperbole where does this come from? No one else ever mentioned her as promiscuous and Spenser had to go through a lot of trouble to find out about Roy Levesque. She, he, and Larson (aka Joey Bucci) put a lot of effort into their scheme and seemed to hang together.
  • The house had an alarm system and the cops report that it was turned on. So how did the perps get in to shoot Nathan?Circumventing an alarm is more of a specialized skill than the hoods Shawcross usually hires would be capable of. Iain Campbell notes that considering his wealth it's likely to have been remotely monitored, which can leave a trace of all activity.
  • In chapter 3 Rita notes that "the bank guy didn't work out." I did my annual reread of the series this spring and found no sign of any such character. Interestingly, in her last appearance (Sudden Mischief) it's as if there is a chapter missing. In chapter 27 Spenser agrees to meet Rita at five o'clock in the Boston Harbor Hotel for a drink. An obvious setup, but there is no payoff; she is never mentioned again for the rest of the book. Did Parker mean to write the encounter and forget it? Did he forget that he didn't write it and remember a planned conversation about a bank guy she was seeing?
  • In chapter 54 a fellow named Russo arrives from Owen Brooks' office. Wouldn't it be nice if we were reminded that Owen is the Suffolk County DA here instead of in chapter 59? Russo was barely mentioned in passing back in Playmates ("they've got some good people working out of there," Quirk said. "Segman, Russo.") and Owen has only appeared in two previous books. Readers without access to these pages and The Cast of Characters might wonder who the hell they were.
  • On two separate occasions Spenser writes Hawk's cell phone number on the back of his card and tells the recipient to call if they need protection, yet the two times he needs to contact Hawk himself he calls Henry at the Harbor Health Club to pass on the message. Clark Kent stopped changing his clothes in a phone booth some years ago but Parker can't seem to shake loose from this old cliché.
  • Willi Kusche pointed out an error in the dust jacket copy that I completely overlooked: "a hole in his head made by a .38-caliber slug." One of the major plot points was that the bullet was a .40-caliber.
  • Oops: In chapter 33 the guys who attacked Spenser were driving a maroon Chrysler. In chapter 36 the same car was used to kill *Brinkman Taylor and it was found abandoned on Charles Street. Belson and Spenser agree that he was previously attacked by a black car, as this one is. My thanks to Iain Campbell for catching this one, as the maroon vehicle meshes nicely with his article "Tell me what you drive and I will tell you who you are."

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