Once upon a time, though not so long ago, there was a girl named April Kyle, a beautiful teenage runaway who turned to prostitution to escape her terrible family life. Now, April Kyle's return in Hundred-Dollar Baby is nothing short of shocking. When a mature, beautiful, and composed April strides into Spenser's office, the Boston PI barely hesitates before recognizing his once and future client. Now a well-established madam, April oversees an upscale call-girl operation in Boston's Back Bay. Still looking for Spenser's approval, it takes her a moment before she can ask him, again, for his assistance. Her business is a success; what's more, it's an all-female enterprise. Now that some men are trying to take it away from her, she needs Spenser. April claims to be in the dark about who it is that's trying to shake her down, but with a bit of legwork and a bit more muscle, Spenser and Hawk find ties to organized crime and local kingpin Tony Marcus, as well as a scheme to franchise the operation across the country. As Spenser again plays the gallant knight, it becomes clear that April's not as innocent as she seems. In fact, she may be her own worst enemy.
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This is as an entertaining listen as the Parker/Mantegna pairings usually are and has quite a bit of the witty repartee that is Parker's style. I enjoyed the story, the reading of the story, and Parker's writing.
Small "however", however...Parker has put in a little bit of proselytizing regarding the 'victimless' crime of prostitution (I think there would be a few wives who'd disagree). And there a few other slyly inserted bits of political opinion here and there. I've quit reading Stephen King and Le Carre because they seem to be more interested in presenting their political opinions rather than writing a good story. Drug companies/big government/abortion rants aren't fun to read when one is in the middle of a decent story. Parker is tip-toeing into that area in this book and I hope he realizes we read his books for a good time rather than indoctrination.
But except for that little failing, it's a good read for riding back and forth to work. I chuckled out loud more than a few times. I still see the fellow who played Spenser on TV as my version when I read the books...makes for a VERY pleasant few hours of listening.
...then you aint sick. Parker was a true genius. He was so productive that it might take me, a voracious reader, several more years to lap up every book he wrote. Fortunately, Joe Mantegna, one of the best narrators we have the privilege to listen to, is our tour guide here, and, if you are at all like me, you can listen to Joe Mantegna for a long, and I do mean long, time. Parker immediately makes you laugh. His protagonist, Spenser, is a private detective and a guy who is dedicated to working out, particularly at the gym, pounding the punching bag until it really ought to be bleeding. Spenser is 100% in love with Susan Silverman, a psychologist who has gotten her Ph.D. from Hah-vahd, and their love for each other is at the core of almost all of these books. The third main character is Hawk. Don't ask his last name. Hawk is a black man, Spenser's best friend and go-to-guy. Hawk is also a dedicated runner, workout guy and so forth. These two often work as a team in the best of Parker's Spenser novels. With Susan along, true love is fierce, and the love between Hawk and Spenser is just as fierce as the love between Spenser and Susan. These two guys do more than cover each other's backs: Spenser may be up against a brick wall, with a gun or two but also with four or five really ugly bad guys about to shoot him maybe fifty times, when Hawk suddenly appears, and soon the bad guys are reduced to armed rubble. As to the plot, faithful RBP readers will recognize April Kyle. She was a young girl in Boston's worst neighborhood when Spenser first met her. She was being pimped and abused by a horrible guy, as usual. Spenser managed, with some difficulty, to extract April from her pimp and from that neighborhood, and with a phone call or two, Spenser was able to deliver April to a very high-priced madame who lives on the Upper East Side of NYC. This woman, whose name I will remember just as soon as I finish writing this review, turns April into a classy, gorgeous call girl. It takes a while, but April eventually evolves quite nicely. She is still a whore, but still... When we encounter her here, April has risen so far that she has reached almost the pinnacle of her profession. She owns an all-woman whorehouse, in a beautiful old house, with, let us say, all the trimmings. Sad to say, some local goons are trying to muscle in on her, and the Large Goon wants to make some extremely easy money, by sending his blockheads to threaten April and scare the customers, so it will then be as easy as pie for the place to become Goon owned whore house number whatever. The Large Goon soon meets Spenser, and then Hawk. Merriment ensues, in a way which only Robert B. Parker has ever been able to create. Joe Mantegna holds our interest completely. His voice is familiar to most of us, I think. His work is flawless. He even handles the "he said, she said," patter, which in my view is just about the only part of RBP's work that becomes hard to listen to. In any case, I become long-winded. Pick this book up. If you already know what to expect, then this book will perfectly meet your already very high expectations. If this is your first Spenser book, then, my friend, you are in for a fantastic treat, one that could last you for years and years. Don't read the "Some hack or other's Robert B. Parker's Spenser series," or whatever it is called. The real thing will have you laughing within two or three minutes. You will then be hooked. Many years later, you will think: I have probably read about a hundred of these. Are there any more?