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Thursday, May 6, 2010


Somebody had a deadline.  Sometimes when you play paperback roulette you lose and this was one of those occasions.  Potshot is another Spenser book from the big pile of paperbacks, this time the Bostonian detective decided to work a case in Southern California.

Spenser is called in to solve the murder of a woman's husband,  she of course is the wrongly suspected damsel in distress and of course the mystery ends up bigger than it initially appears.  Once Spenser gets to town he discovers that the town is overrun with a gang of thugs that are extorting local businesses and bleeding the town dry.  For some reason he decides it's his duty to clean it up and calls in the crew.  Now according to the reviews, if you're a long time Spenser fan this book is a rewarding treat where all the old characters come on stage for a reunion and you get some joy out of reading about a road trip made up of morally ambiguous caricatures.  I however am here to testify that when you line up a whole row of potboiler stereotypes it makes for a sad scene that highlights how unrealistic and silly detective novel stereotypes are when you take them out of their element.

I'll give you a spoiler alert here and give you a recommendation to skip this book so if you want to take my advice read ahead.  So Spenser discovers that the townies are corrupt.  The woman that hired him is at the head of a ring of land speculators who have purchased all the land around town but need to clear out the gang in the hills to make the investment pay off.  For some reason even after discovering this Spenser and his crew decide to have it out with the squatters and since he doesn't really have any evidence the land speculators pretty much go free.  Lame!

I don't know if this was intended to be a morally ambiguous McMurtry style western but if it was the poor decision to use a well known Boston detective as the protagonist pretty much ruins the book.  Not to mention that Parker doesn't have the right set of skills to pull off a McMurtry style drama, it's still written like a mystery until the last 50 pages , then like a western for 30 and then a half crocked wrap up and we're done.

My summary of this book is that someone was cashing in, and it wasn't the fictional land speculators of Potshot.


  1. Man I love Spenser books, but the quality of the writing really became uneven around ten years ago. This was definitely one of the bad ones.


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