SUDDEN MISCHIEF, # 25 in the Spenser series, provided another prime work up on the Man/Woman relationship scene, dealing with ex-hubby scars, Susan's turtle-snap moods, and a new-and-improved conversational skill from Dr. Sigmund Spenser. I'm roaring onward toward the end of the series with continued amazement at how many miasmas of human angst Parker has been able to muck into, for Spenser to clarify and deodorize; and how many relationship scenes and character cards he can lay bare on any table, with Spades called true.
Opening what I might term "The Pandora in The Relationship," a scene between Spenser and Susan slipped suddenly from the most comfy of cozy, with humor set and staged on-a-roll ... to sour milk, paused peace, and stomach knots. I felt that hit along with Spenser, possibly more than any other emotional toll taken in the series (except when Susan left in VALEDICTION, # 11 in the series). The way Spenser worked with and through the situation was a perfect expression of ... not of psychological actualization ... but of the wisdom of a dynamically-operating human maturity. This scene and Spenser's "self-talk" in understanding the dense drama underlying Susan's behavior took the reader ozone holes beyond the trite advice to "roll with the punches."
I particularly enjoyed the few glove punches of tribute to X-Files here, in the slight, playful change in the style of humor between Hawk and Spenser, and in the Lone Gunman computer geek. SUDDEN MISCHIEF was another example of the cultural evolutionary intrigue contained in this triple-decade-running series. In this one and in a few previous recent offerings readers were also given hints of the beginning of The-Waitress-Hurry-Rush-Syndrome, which appeared to have begun in the nineties.
In SUDDEN MISCHIEF Spenser stepped up to the tallest measure of being Susan's hero, savior, Knight-in-Shining Armor, and her Shrink. Acting as her shrink, Spenser's jangled the jargon from the popular surge of psycho-self-help books which carried "come-communicate" concepts from the 70's and 80's into the 90's. Spenser's part of every dialogue with every character seemed to have suddenly altered in MISCHIEF in a manner which felt somewhat but not totally, tongue-in-cheek. The alteration came through the famous style of the Shrink's SILENCE, the true listening mode ... of no response ... to stretches of out-loud contemplations from whomever happened to be the partner in repartee (or payer of shrink-wrap fees). I enjoyed the fact that the dialogues often took place over meals or in interesting restaurants, so that when Spenser worked the no response deal, he replaced the saved mouth motion with warm, moist bites of fresh, spongy bread, and savored the yeasty flavor. Usually his comment in that venue went something like, "I took a bite of .... It was good."
Spenser did the shrink silence with as much perfection as he has done all else. Even so, one of the reasons for success of his perfection was his ability to see (and note) his and Susan's flaws here. And, Susan's self-actualization scene in chapter 48 was truly incredible in Parker's perfection of process of her coming to that catharsis, with Spenser providing support in an awesomely effective way of stand-aside-but-be-ready.
As noted above, it appeared to me that the humor had changed slightly in this one, with appetizer overtures in recent previous offerings as well. Some of the conversational fun-poking definitely seemed to have taken on a warmly entertaining edge of the X-Files, Fox Mulder type.
The combo of these subtle changes continued to herald the "Signs of the Times," reinforcing my sense of one of the major values in this series being its feathered function as a cultural-evolution-landmark for the 70's, 80's, 90's, and 00's.
Sometimes series authors have espoused a wish that they could get out of the limitations of a genre and write something "significant." Parker has repeatedly and unfailingly honored his series genre, while packing his products with the ultimate in literary significance. Possibly the greatest gift in this accomplishment is that readers can choose to see this significance (and be awed by it). Or, they can merely let go of cares and worries, and be entertained by pure escape fiction.
I wonder if RBP was born on the precise point of an Annular Solar Eclipse, to have continually generated and successfully manifested so much primal, pivotal creativity. Or maybe ... like today ... Robert B. Parker was born during a Blue Moon peaking full in the company of Jupiter and Vesta (the asteroid). All I know about that is that he was born in 1947 (or 48?), a Baby Boomer like many of us.
Another man, born in 1928, wasn't a Baby Boomer, nor an author, yet he reminds me of Parker, in the sense of the above described type of continued creative generation and manifestation. See the Amazon Short, I Worked: A True Story
Immensely thankful for fascinating feats such as these,
Linda G. Shelnutt
Susan Silverman's ex doesn't call himself "Silverman" anymore--he's changed his name to "Sterling." And that's not the only thing that's phony about him. A do-gooding charity fundraiser, he's been accused of sexual harassment by no less than four different women. And not long after Spenser starts investigating, Sterling is wanted for a bigger charge: murder...