cover image Paper Doll

Paper Doll

Robert B. Parker. Putnam Publishing Group, $19.95 (223pp) ISBN 978-0-399-13818-8

Spenser fans will delight in the Boston PI's latest adventure, after Pastime and Double Deuce , as Parker, restraining a penchant for arch characterization, returns his attention to plotting. Spenser is hired by Boston Brahmin Loudon Tripp to find the murderer of his conventionally impeccable wife, Olivia Nelson, whom the police consider a victim of random urban violence. After consulting with the police detective assigned to the case, a gay man whose lover is dying of AIDS, Spenser travels to Olivia's hometown in South Carolina, where his questions land him in jail, uncharged, and at the mercy of some Northern thugs. Rescued at the last minute by Boston police Lt. Quirk, the burly detective soon finds himself taken into the confidence of a sleazy but powerful Massachusetts senator. The case builds on a nicely woven mix of false identity, self-delusion and, unexpectedly, the powerful attachment of two old Southern gentlemen, one black and one white. Spenser's lover, the elegant psychiatrist Susan, and his pal Hawk stay pretty much in the background as the tough-but-sensitive PI hews mainly to the mystery at hand. Mystery Guild Main selection, Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates. (May)