Picks and Pans Review: Crimson Joy

updated 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/08/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robert B. Parker

Spenser for Hire, the television series based on Parker's books about a beefy boxer-turned-private-eye, was recently canceled after three years on the air. While it would be premature to recommend a similar fate for the Spenser novels, they have begun to feel a bit tired—and somehow diminished by the TV show. In Crimson Joy, Boston is again the backdrop for the action, and Spenser is again tough, smart and sensitive. The regulars—Spenser's lady friend, psychotherapist Susan Silverman, the ultracool Hawk and two of Boston's finest, Lieutenant Quirk and Sergeant Belson—are on hand. Spenser is tracking a serial killer whose victims are all black women in their 40s. The killer, who leaves a long-stemmed red rose at the scene of each crime, may or may not be a cop, but he is, it turns out, one of Susan's patients. Rather than let the suspense build, Parker pares the list of seven suspects down to one much too quickly. Spenser novels have never been long on plot; the enjoyment comes from Parker's terse descriptions of sudden shoot-outs, thrown-together meals and languorous lovemaking, as well as the author's talent for rapid-fire repartee. "So whaddya know that you haven't been telling?" the host of a radio call-in show asks Spenser. "I've got a recipe for cornmeal pancakes that I've never made public," our hero replies. Spenser fans eat up this sort of stuff. On the other hand, aficionados' appetites may be dulled by tiresome touches like the frequent italic interludes meant to provide insight into the murderer's psychological makeup. Crimson Joy is Spenser's 15th appearance since Parker introduced him in 1973. Familiarity, in this case, breeds mild ennui. (Delacorte, $16.95)

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