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Publisher's Summary

Appie Knoll is the kind of suburb where kids grow up right. But something is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Kevin Bartlett disappears. Everyone thinks he's run away -- until the comic strip ransom note arrives. It doesn't take Spenser long to get the picture -- an affluent family seething with rage, a desperate boy making strange friends...friends like Vic Harroway, body builder. Mr. Muscle is Spenser's only lead and he isn't talking...except with his fists. But when push comes to shove, when a boy's life is on the line, Spenser can speak that language too.
©1987 Robert B. Parker (P)2009 Random House
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Critic Reviews

"Spenser is everyman's fantasy: social critic, gourmet cook, physically fit, sculptor, and of course, unabashed participant in a non-destructive sexual relationship. Parker has taken his place beside Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald." ( The Boston Globe)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By Richard Delman on 11-17-12

Early Parker, like Early Autumn. Very engaging.

Parker was so prolific for so long that it is sometimes hard to tell one book from another. I may have confused my review of Early Autumn with this one. If so, forgive me. At 63. whatever, the memory begins to fade...perhaps some of you are familiar with this phenomenon.
In any case, this is the book in which Spenser and Susan Silverman meet, and it presages a long, passionate affair in which the two never live together, but maintain their love and commitment to each other. The plot involves a kidnapping of a fifteen-year-old boy for $50,000, money his parents have to borrow. The parents have very serious problems. Spenser is drawn into a spider's web of iniquity and evil-doing, the likes of which the title of the book would never even hint at. Everyone is corrupt, and Spenser is like a dog with a bone: he is so determined that he never lets go. Susan helps him as a consultant, but we soon realize that the work she does is parallel: her clinical work involves her solving the nexus of her patients' lives, just as Spenser's work draws him into the dark side of their lives.
Spenser is so funny that you often can't stop giggling long enough to take him seriously.
This book is also pre-Hawk. Spenser is without his wing-man, and has to ride to the rescue with only his resources. Fortunately, these are considerable. The team of Spenser and Susan is a winner, and will survive decades of very satisfying work. Enjoy this. Few writers can approach Parker in talent, humor, plot or character development.

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8 of 9 people found this review helpful


By Me & My Girls on 03-26-15

It is the Mother

A child is missing and his parents hire Spenser to find him and we're off on another adventure. In the small town of Smithfield Massachusetts in the mid seventies there are still communes and Spenser enlists the aid of the high school guidance counselor Susan Silverman to help him find it. He doesn't find him there but all fingers point to him being there with his hero a bodybuilder by the name of Vic Harroway. You see Kevin has a dominant mother who is sexually promiscuous (look that one up or ask your parents about that one young people) and a father who works all the time; naturally this creates gender and sexual identification issues for the boy, because psychologically speaking Freud still rules in the 1970's. The book is dated in other ways as well such as fashion, sexuality, and the counterculture. Many of the basics that later became staples for the fans of the Spenser series aren't yet a part of this book. This is both a positive and negative; familiar elements of what later developed into cliches and people who lost their humanity and became icons are absent here. For me the earlier Spenser makes for a better read or listen and has the advantage of being new rather than repeated every book. Some of the elements of the later books are like the Fonz's "heh," (another age definitive cultural reference there youngsters). This one is a pretty good listen; not the best of the early Spenser books but worth the credit if you're a fan.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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