We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker: Hunting for Hope (and Life?) in a Hopeless Place

Am glad to welcome the Book Tour for We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker today—it’s one of those books that I don’t feel quite adequate to talk about, but we’ll give it a shot. Be sure to check out some of these other blogs on the graphic below, as well. There’s some great blogs covering this one.

We Begin at the End

We Begin at the End

by Chris Whitaker

eARC, 464 pg.
Zaffre, 2020

Read: April 4-7, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


Thirty years after (the then minor) Vincent King was imprisoned for killing a girl, he’s released to a world he can only barely recognize. His childhood best friend, now Chief of Police, picks him up from prison to drive him back to the small coastal town they grew up in. Geographic changes, economic changes, societal drift, and other pressures have radically altered this community.

But some things remain—the high school jock who’s athletic future was derailed by an injury still drives the car his father bought while he was in High School, and works to recapture the physical condition he was in then. Chief Walker—Walk—is still hung up on his high school sweetheart (who moved away not long after King was imprisoned). And Star Radley, Vincent’s then-girlfriend, and sister of his victim, still lives in town, still shaped by the events of thirty years prior.

Star has two children—thirteen-year-old Duchess and her little brother, Robin. Duchess does most of the care-taking of Robin, feeding him, getting him ready for school, making sure he’s sleeping. She’s doing everything she can to raise Robin (and protect him from the world), and to keep her mother healthy for Robin’s sake. On the eve of Vincent’s return, Star tries to overdose on pills—and not for the first time.

Walk’s a constant presence in the lives of Star, Duchess, and Robin—but not a necessarily welcome one. Still, he’s the steadiest and most reliable adult in the children’s lives (and in some way, Duchess does depend on him and look up to him).

That’s the status quo that King’s release upsets. What follows is a chain of heartbreak, calamity, tragedy, violence, vengeance, and depravity. There’s a little glimmer of hope, too—but it’s hard to find, and there’s a lot of suffering surrounding it.

Whitaker delivers this in lean prose, without wasting a word. It’s almost as if he took Leonard’s rule to “leave out the parts that people skip,” and dialed it up to 11. The prose matches the emotions, the characters—beauty, ornament, sentiment have no place in their lives, and it’s largely empty from the novel. There’s not a word out of place, each one carefully placed for maximum impact and effectiveness.

Each character has a depth that you don’t always see. Whitaker doesn’t explore the depth too much, doesn’t explain it—but he shows that it’s there. Duchess, in particular, is a character so well drawn that I can practically see her. I won’t forget her anytime soon.

There are some problems, not many, but they’re there. The text in the ARC (and perhaps this will be addressed in the final text) contains a couple of sloppy Britishisms—terms that would be commonplace in the UK, but have no place in a US character’s mind. Particularly if they’re a poorly educated child. Whitaker’s language is so precise, so clear, that having something like that just takes me out of the text—ruining the spell.

Secondly, Whitaker’s sparse style occasionally works against him. Every now and then the prose works against him, making a scene difficult to parse. Just a few more words (judiciously placed, obviously) to flesh things out could help.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book—I really do. But I didn’t. I did fall under its spell, the stark, bleak outlook affected me (I wonder how I’d have reacted to a thing or two if Duchess’s and Walk’s plights weren’t in the back of my mind the last couple of days). This is not your typical Crime Novel. It’s not written in the typical fashion, with typical characters and motivations, with typical ends in mind. The terms “moody” and “atmospheric” seem like understatements. It is powerful, skillfully written—and will stay with you for quite a while.

Do yourself a favor, take the plunge.


4 Stars


My thanks to Tracy Fenton and Compulsive Readers for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) provided via NetGalley.


This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Pub Day Post: A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones: Now that’s a first day on the job

A Bad Day for Sunshine

A Bad Day for Sunshine

by Darynda Jones
Series: Sunshine Vicram, #1

eARC, 400pg.
St. Martin’s Press, 2020

Read: March 31-April 4, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


We meet Sunshine Vicram on the first day of her new job, Sheriff of Del Sol, New Mexico. It’s truly remarkable that one of the state’s most successful law enforcement officers won the office in the small town she grew up in, if for no other reason than she didn’t run for office. Somehow, she handily defeated the incumbent and now finds herself living in a small apartment in her parent’s backyard with her daughter, leading a small force with her childhood best friend as her Chief Deputy.

Her first day on the job is marred by an ominous basket of muffins (literally), a car crashing through the front of her headquarters, a threat from the mayor, a stolen (maybe?) chicken, escaped prisoners, and a runaway/kidnapped fourteen-year-old-girl. Not the most auspicious start, really.

The missing teenager is the Sun’s biggest focus—Sybil’s a quiet, socially awkward girl with no real friends. Sun’s daughter, Auri, had spent some time getting to know her, and she’s the closest thing she seemed to have had to a friend. It appears that she has been kidnapped (but Sun has to look into the alternative) and that the clock is ticking to find and rescue her.

Auri’s first day at the public high school is possibly rougher than her mom’s. Her mom has to deal with hardened criminals, but Auri has to deal with Mean Girls™ who seem to have taken a dislike to her before she even started school. Also, her one prospective friend seems to have gone missing. On the other hand, it’s not all bad—there’s a hot guy who might as well be named Byronic—brooding, poetic, soulful, with a penchant for physical violence. There’s also the bubbliest, cheeriest character this side of Sumi (from McGuire’s Wayward Children)—we didn’t get nearly enough time for her, and I hope that book 2 uses her for more.

It turns out that at Auri’s previous school, she basically was Veronica Mars—doing small investigations (which may or may not have used her mother’s police resources without Sun’s knowledge) for her classmates. She unleashes these tools in the hunt for Sybil and essentially has to fess up to her mother about what she’s done before.

Speaking of Veronica Mars, from the get-go (I was at 4% when I made my first note along these lines), I was comparing the relationship between Sun and Auri as a mix of Lorelai-and-Rory and Keith-and-Veronica (and that was before we learn about Auri’s extra-curricular activities). There’s a fantastic banter, the two clearly love each other with the kind of love that’s the dream of every parent, they both have intelligent and wicked senses of humor, and reading their interactions is probably the best thing in this really entertaining novel.* One of the first things that Sun tells Auri is a twisted first-day-of-school pep talk/warning about teen boys, that ends with a repeated call to ask herself WWLSD? What Would Lisbeth Salander Do? My daughter leaves for college in a few months, I plan on adapting this speech. That’s probably also the moment I decided I read the sequel to this book.

* As a sentence, that’s a mess, but I like it.

I wish I knew how to work in a mention of Sun and Quincy talking about why they couldn’t be K-9 officers, but I can’t blend it into one of these paragraphs. So I’ll just leave it hanging here awkardly. But man, I loved that part.

There’s actually a lot more going on in these pages—but I think there’s enough to whet your appetite. There is a lot of serious, dark, material here—child abduction, murder. Something happened to Sun, too, while she was in high school and the hunt for Sybil digs up some traumatic memories (and evidence). Yet, without once minimizing any of the dangerous, solemn qualities of what Sun, Sybil, Sybil’s parents, and others are going through—Jones makes this a delightful read.

Could I have lived without the three impossibly attractive men who are all into Sun (and vice versa, to varying degrees)? Yeah, it’s a bit much (but Jones made it endearing, actually). I hope future installments dial back a bit on that kind of thing. I’m giving one of those men short shrift, mostly because of time, but I know that in the next book (or the rest of the series), I’ll get plenty of opportunities to talk about him.

Similarly, Sun’s Chief Deputy, Quincy, and some of the other deputies should probably get a paragraph or three, but you’ll have to read for yourself. They’re plenty of fun, and really help to round out the cast (along with the rest of Del Sol’s residents). Jones’ Del Sol, NM is closer to Stars Hollow, CT than Neptune, CA (but you can find traces of the latter in there)—full of larger-than-life characters that you just want to hang out with. Or sit and watch from across the room (or street).

This is as much fun as you can pack into a police procedural without making it a comedy, but still full of grim, grisly, depravity and darkness. It’s a nice serving of literary comfort food. There’s a freshness to this voice that made me a fan, but my appreciation for this book (and the series it launches) goes deeper. I want to find out more about what happened to the teen-aged Sun (although I have pretty strong theories), but more than that, I want to find out what happens to Sun and Auri—particularly Auri—after this.

I strongly recommend this, you’ll have a blast.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for this post—thanks to both for this.

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs: Mercy Deals with Unexpected Threats from Every Direction

Smoke Bitten

Smoke Bitten

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #12

Hardcover, 342 pg.
ACE, 2020

Read: March 24-28, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


There’s just so much going on in this novel, it’s hard to know where to start—this may be the busiest Mercy Thompson novel yet. Well, okay, we’ll start with the titular bit. Something/Someone has escaped from Underhill. This seems fairly impossible, but I guess even nigh-omnipotent sentient spaces make mistakes every now and then. Doubtlessly the Columbia Basin pack would’ve gotten involved at some point, but since Mercy recognized the threat before the Fae—or anyone else—did, they were on the front line for this. Whoever it bites, it controls. It can shape-shift to look like anyone, too. It’s deadly and doesn’t seem to have much of a plan beyond creating as much chaos and gathering as much power as it can.

While dealing with that, another threat to the pack presents itself. There are some new werewolves in the area, and their goal is simple: become the new pack in town. As Adam’s pack is now independent of The Marrok, these wolves have decided they’re ripe for a takeover. None of these are wolves to be taken lightly—some have recently left a pack run by very dominant Alpha, which took some strength. All of them have strong reputations amongst the wolves (generally positive), although one is known as the wolf who’d do things that Charles Cornick wouldn’t do for his father. These are not going to be easy to face off against.

The thing that’s the most distressing (and given what I’ve just talked about, that’s saying something) for Mercy is that there’s a problem between her and Adam. The roots of the issue go back to before we met Adam, but something happened in Storm Cursed to tip Adam over the brink. The latest meddling by Adam’s ex, Chrissy, made it all boil over and threatened the peace and stability of the pack—as well as their marriage. We see Mercy at her most vulnerable since…well, probably since the attack at the garage (or what The Monster tried to do in Bone Crossed), which stresses for the reader how bad the situation is. The two take some positive steps, but things aren’t resolved wholly here—and I hope Briggs doesn’t patch things up quickly between the two between novels. I think we need to see the pair continuing to work through things.

There’s a few more things going on, too, including some fun with Sherwood (who is quickly becoming a favorite character), some interesting developments with Jesse’s life, and some interesting character development in general with pretty much each of the pack members we usually get time with. Oh, and lest I forget, an old friend comes back.

One final thing to mention: last year, while talking about Storm Cursed, I said:

There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book—because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss—2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there—maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”

Well, Briggs gave that seed plenty of water and a little fertilizer in these pages. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it in detail for reasons I can’t explain. But whoo-boy, I can’t wait to see what Briggs has in mind.

So, yeah, like I said—a lot of balls in the air. Or plates spinning. Pick a metaphor you like best. And I think Briggs did alright by them all—yeah, I’d have liked a bit more time with the new wolves, but we didn’t need it—and I’m not sure we’re done with them (maybe in the next Alpha and Omega book if not in an upcoming Mercy novel?). To deal well with all these elements and keep the novel moving quickly and resolving in a satisfactory manner (with a few more strings than usual left for the next installment) speaks highly of Briggs’ skill. Fans of Mercy Thompson shouldn’t wait to grab this, people who are curious about the series should be able to come on board now, too (although, you really ought to read them all). Briggs is at the top of her game now, and it’s just fun to watch.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

The Immortal Conquistador by Carrie Vaughn: Just who is the Vampire Rick, Anyway?

I’ve been trying to get this out for over a week now (it was published last week), but I couldn’t seem to be able to—I’m a little surprised I’ve had the energy to post anything since I started telecommuting (odd that not going anywhere tires me out more than going to work does). Finally, with apologies to the publisher for getting this post up late.

The Immortal Conquistador

The Immortal Conquistador

by Carrie Vaughn
Series: Kitty Norville, #1

eARC, 192 pg.
Tachyon Publications, 2020

Read: March 20-23, 2020


I’ve been a fan of the Kitty Norville series since the debut in 2005, and one of the supporting characters that fans seem most enamored of—and are given the least information about—is Kitty’s vampire ally, Rick (the Master of Denver).

For those (like me) who need a little brushing up on some of what went on toward the end of the series, Rick leaves Denver for a while in order to explore a different way to take on Dux Bellorum (the series’ Big Bad).

This book gives the reader some insight into what Rick was up to during this time. The book stitches together four short stories about Rick’s origin (some previously published, some not) while Rick introduces himself to the Order of Saint Lazarus.

I’d already read the first story, “Conquistador de la Noche,” in the collection Kitty’s Greatest Hits—but it worked really well in this setting, too—this sets the stage for the rest of Rick’s history and tells about him becoming a vampire. The next two stories show what happens when he first encounters the Vampire sub-culture and is first exposed to the rules (most) Vampires live by and how Rick skirts the edges of those rules and starts to make both a name for himself and build his different kind of power base.

The fourth story is my favorite detailing what happens when Rick meets a legendary Old West character. It was just a great story with an element of fun. It’s also something the reader is told that Rick’s never told anyone about before. It’s precisely the kind of thing that Kitty would kill to hear, she’s constantly asking vampires and other supernatural types for stories like this. That Rick would go out of his way to deprive her of this story (but we get to read it) was a little extra dash of fun.

I don’t know that this gave me a much better picture of Rick—the novels had pretty much done that. We know his character, we may not understand his past and what he was—but we know who he is. But this book rounds out our understanding of the man and gives the reader a little hope for his future.

Once I cottoned on to what Vaughn was doing—stitching together short stories—I was a little skeptical of the format. But I came around pretty quickly and decided it worked really well. It’s better than a simple short story collection, essentially giving us a bonus story. The stories (including the framing device) feel different from the Kitty series, but not so much that it doesn’t feel like the same world.

A cool bonus of this—you can read it totally independent of the Kitty Norville series. It’s not dependent at all on the events or people of the series (there are references to certain antagonists, but not in any way that makes familiarity with the series necessary for understanding).

I do have to wonder about the timing of this—the series ended almost five years ago, so I’m not sure I get why we’re getting this material in this format now. But that’s just me being curious, not complaining. Did I (or the series) need The Immortal Conquistador? No. But I’m very glad I got it.

Disclaimer: I received this eARC from Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for this post —thanks to both for the opportunity.


3.5 Stars

Dryad Teas Inspired by the Dresden Files

And Now for Something Completely Different

This is not what I typically post about, but it sort of fits.

I’m not a big tea drinker—but I dabble from time to time, and we’re in the middle of another attempt to drink more (health benefits, no sugar, etc., etc.—oh, and it tastes good, too). While I’m playing around with this blend and that, someone posts on one of the Dresden Files Fan Facebook pages a link to Dryad Teas’ Dresden Files inspired teas (and then someone posts about another company’s varieties, too!). I have to be honest, my mind is boggled, how do you come up with tea blends based on fictional characters? Sure, I can see a Picard-branded Earl Gray variety or something that Lady Mary or Count Grantham might drink; but thinking about a character and coming up with a tea blend based on them? I wouldn’t know where to start—and I’m freakishly impressed (and incredibly curious about it).

Anyway, I ordered some samples from Dryad’s Dresden teas, and thought I’d share a thought or two about them.

KarrinKarrin

Inspired by the amazing ‘Dresden Files’ book series by Jim Butcher, this blend is a thought provoking mix of peach and apricot with deep undertones of black tea.

I’m not sure that this says, Karrin Murphy to me. It does make me think of her house—left to her by her grandmother, and I don’t think she re-decorated it much (I’m ready to be corrected on that front). In the end, it was too fruity for me. It smells great, though, and tastes very pleasant.

Bob the SkullBob the Skull

…this blend is a delicious mix of genmaicha and citrus. Notes of raspberry and lime pair with the depth of the genmaicha to create a light blend with promise, fitting for Bob the Skull.

Another one that I’m not sure about—it’s too floral, and too mild for me to drink regularly. I’m also not a big green tea guy. But there’s something about this blend of flavor that is very, very pleasant. I would absolutely drink it again (I’m not sure I’d buy it though). I think they drew too much from Bob’s love of Romance novels when they came up with the blend. (just a wild guess)

DresdenDresden

…this blend is inspired by Dresden. Smoky and spicy, the text of “The building was on fire, and it wasn’t my fault.” explains the character perfectly. This tea is no different.

Now this? This was my cup of tea.* Going from that quoted line, it’s smokey, dark, deliciousness. I tried to explain the flavor to my wife by saying it’s like “a tea made from pipe tobacco, but it tastes good.” She told me I shouldn’t ever tell anyone that. I tried explaining it to a friend, who is also a Dresden fan, by saying “Imagine the ashes of the building that was on fire (but wasn’t his fault), made into a tea, that somehow tastes good.” She didn’t tell me that I shouldn’t repeat that description, but her expression pretty much did.

Basically, I don’t know how to describe how things taste–this was strong, smokey, bold, full of flavor. I’d drink this by the gallon.

* Had to be done.

Anyway, check out Dryad Teas. Even if these don’t appeal, they have a lot of geeky teas/accessories.

Classic Spenser: God Save the Child by Robert B. Parker

Classic Spenser

God Save the Child

God Save the Child

by Robert B. Parker
Series: Spenser, #2

Mass Market Paperback, 202 pg.
Dell Publishing Co., 1974

Read: February 25, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

He hunched the chair forward and wrote a check on the edge of my desk with a translucent ballpoint pen. Bartlett Construction was imprinted in the upper left corner of the check—I was going to be a business expense. Deductible. One keg of 8d nails, 500 feet of 2×4 utility grade, one gumshoe, 100 gallons of creosote stain. I took the check without looking at it and slipped it folded into my shirt pocket, casual, like I got them all the time and it was just something to pass along to my broker. Or maybe I’d buy some orchids with it.

A nice bit of description, a bit of wit and a Nero Wolfe reference. Not a bad start.

I’m not certain, but I think this was the first Spenser novel that I purchased, and I’d read a handful before then (my then local library started with book 3). It was a new copy (an extravagance for me then), and justing by the state it’s in, I may have to buy myself a replacement copy after one or two more reads. Actually, it may not survive another whole read (that back cover is holding on by strength of will).

Which is just a long-winded way to say that it’s not like I read this with fresh eyes.

Roger (call him “Rog”) and Marge Bartlett have come to Spenser for help finding their fourteen-year-old son, Kevin, who has seemingly run away from home with the clothes on his back and his pet guinea pig. He’s been gone a week, and the local police haven’t been able to do much. Spenser assures them that unlike the police, the only thing he has to focus on his hunting for Kevin—not breaking up fights, ticketing speeders, arresting drunks, etc.—”Also, maybe I’m smarter than they are.”

During their initial consultation, we see that the couple is also a bit more focused on other things than Kevin. Marge is sure to work in references to her acting and cooking classes, she’s a self-described creative person who has to express it. Rog seems a bit more focused on the bottom line (which he might need to be, since Marge seems to spend money like it’s going out of style). By the end of the book, my impression is that Rog is trying to do the right thing for his family, has some real concern over Kevin, but maybe doesn’t know how to show it. Marge is too self-involved for my taste and doesn’t come across very well (and has some other problems I won’t get into). But when the chips are down, both will selflessly and reflexively react to help their son. Their daughter, Kevin’s younger sister, is practically ignored throughout and I always feel bad for her. We’ll see an echo of this couple (with significant variations) in Promised Land in a couple of months.

The Bartletts live in Smithfield, which a fictionalized version of Lynnfield, MA. There are some pretty good reasons that Parker probably had to change the name in this novel, but as Spenser spends time in almost every novel since in Smithfield, I wonder if he ever regretted it.

Police Chief Trask is this close to being a tough-guy cartoon of a cop. He’s far more concerned with making sure that Spenser knows that he’s running the show than he is in anything Spenser has to say on their initial meeting (and he doesn’t improve much after this). He’s done some checking on Spenser and the two banter a bit about Spenser’s record. Well, Spenser banters and Trask tries to push him around, anyway.

Before Spenser can do too much on his own to find Kevin, a very strange looking ransom note shows up. Which brings the Massachusetts State Police, in the person of Lt. Healy, into things.

Healy I knew of . He was chief investigator for the Essex County DA”s office. There were at least two first-run racketeers I knew who stayed out of Essex County because they didn’t want any truck with him.

Healy said, ‘Didn’t you used to work for the Suffolk County DA once?”

I said, “Yes.”

“Didn’t they fire you for hotdogging?”

“I like to call it inner-directed behavior,” I said.

“I’ll bet you do.” Healy said.

Healy is tough, smart and ethical—and has little respect for Trask. He and Spenser work together pretty well, and Healy will appear or be mentioned in another dozen Spenser novels before making regular appearances in the Jesse Stone books.

From this point, things get strange—the ransom note is just the beginning, and a strange kidnapping will evolve into a murder case, a drugs and prostitution ring, and . . . well, more things. As with The Godwulf Manuscript the climactic fight involves two people who have no business engaging in hand-to-hand combat. Unlike last time, Spenser’s not sidelined for this fight and gets involved as well—it’s one of my favorite fight scenes in the series. Parker shows off his knowledge of and affinity for boxing here. Spenser’s motive for engaging in the fight isn’t necessarily pure, and I kind of like how honest Parker and Spenser both are about that.

As nice as that scene is, that’s not the end of the story—and whatever victory Spenser enjoys, it’s empty. Which is a nod to Spenser’s noir lineage and something that will show up again and again in the series.

While we’re introduced to Spenser in the previous novel, it doesn’t feel quite like a Spenser novel. But God Save the Child does. The same flavor, pacing, and approach to the story that are here are in almost every thing that Parker does with the character from this point forward. The character will evolve from novel to novel, but the series really starts here.

Possibly the biggest reason for that is that it’s in these pages we meet Susan Silverman. She’s the guidance counselor at Smithfield High School and after the Assistant Principal demonstrates that he’s useless for giving Spenser any insight into Kevin, she’s who Spenser turns to. Spenser’s described quite a few women prior to this, but from the first paragraph, Susan’s different.

Susan Silverman wasn’t beautiful. but there was an intangibility about her a physical reality, that made the secretary with the lime-green bosom seem insubstantial. She had should-length black hair and a thin dark Jewish face with prominent cheekbones. Tall, maybe five seven, with black eyes. It was hard to tell her age, but there was a sense about her of intelligent maturity which put her on my side of thirty…When she shook hands with me, I felt something click down the back of my solar plexus.

I said hello without stammering and sat down.

Parker’s not quite as blatant about it as Henry Fielding is about Sophie (for those who’ve been reading my Fridays with the Foundling series), but he’s fairly obvious in the way he portrays Susan in this scene (not to mention the several that follow) that she’s different. Exceptional. She ends up being the love of Spenser’s life and shows up in every book hereafter. But for now, they’re just meeting, but there’s a spark between the two of them and Spenser soon asks her to dinner.

I had just finished washing my hands and face when the doorbell rang. Everything was ready. Ah, Spenser, what a touch. Everything was just right except that I couldn’t seem to find a missing child. Well, nobody’s perfect. I pushed the release button and opened my apartment door. I was wrong. Susan Silverman was perfect.

It took nearly forty years of savior faire to keep from saying “Golly.”…

“Come in,” I said. Very smooth. I didn’t scuff my foot; I didn’t mumble. I stood right up straight when I said it. I don’t think I blushed.

During their date, Susan makes the following observation about Spenser,

So, sticking your nose into things and getting it broken allows you to live life on your own terms, perhaps.

Spenser is impressed with this insight—and it’s a recurring theme for the two of them to talk about for the next few decades—with each other or when Susan tries to explain Spenser to others. The choices he’s made in his life—relational, vocational, lifestyle, what have you—are all about living life on his own terms. There’s a lot to be commended in this approach, and some problems (in two books we meet a more extreme version of someone living this way…but that’s for another day). Another frequent thing that comes up in their conversations appeared for the first time when they met.

“Why do you want to know?” [Susan asks]

“Because it’s there. Because it’s better to know than not to know in my line of work.”

If I had a quarter for every time the two of them said this (sometimes he does the set up), I’d be able to buy my replacement copy of this book.

It’s not just because they say the same things in almost every book (wow, it sounds dull when I put it that way—it’s not, at least not for several years), it’s the effect that Susan has on Spenser that changes the series. It made Spenser stand out from the rest of the genre’s tough guys. I could go on and on about Susan or Susan-and-Spenser, but I’ll hold off on it for now.

As chapter two begins, we’re treated to four long paragraphs (about two pages in my edition) describing the route between Boston and Smithfield, with commentary from Spenser on the scenery, traffic, businesses, etc. that he comes across. This is something that Parker excels at—and doesn’t do nearly often enough (but at least once a book). I’ve never been in that part of the world, I defiantly can’t go to the version of that area that existed in 1974—but I walk away from this description feeling like I know the area.

As far as recurring characters go (other than Healy and Susan), Frank Belson makes a quick appearance, and we meet Henry Cimoli—who runs the Harbor Health Club, Spenser’s gym. Henry’s importance will ebb and flow (as will the frequency of appearances) over the rest of the series, but he’s a constant enough presence that it’s good to meet him for the first time here.

There’s a lot more that could be mined from these pages, but this has gotten too long. I may pick up a strand or two in the future, but we’ll see. God Save the Child seems to be a story about a runaway (or a kidnapping?), but really it’s about a young man struggling to understand his place in the world, parents who aren’t sure how to parent, and a detective starting to change his place in the world. There’s a lot of wit, some good social commentary, some decent detecting, and a great fight scene—all expertly and (seemingly) effortlessly written. That’s a reductionistic way to look at it, but that’s a Spenser novel in a nutshell. I loved revisiting it, and can’t wait to get to the next book.

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The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding: BOOK IV., ix.-xiv.

Fridays with the Foundling
Tom Jones Original CoverA couple of bonus chapters to catch up…

We start off with Molly’s mother and sisters attacking her for being with child—an illegitimate child. Molly points to the hypocrisy of her mother—Molly’s oldest sister is 1 week younger than her parent’s marriage. Mom is having none of it. Her parents are trying to push her into Service at the Western’s, but she refuses and in the end, her mother will take the position. Molly’s refusal is because she’s convinced that her “Gentleman” will provide for her and the child much better.

The next night, Tom dines with Sophie, Squire Western and the local Parson. The Parson goes on about Molly and her condition, going on about the Bastard she’s carrying. Tom leaves the meal in a haste, prompting Squire Western to opine that Tom’s the father. This shows Sophie her true feelings about Tom while the Parson regrets the way this will lower Tom in Allworthy’s view.

Molly is about to be taken to a house of correction over her pregnancy when Tom claims the child as his own and begs for mercy from Mr. Allworthy. Allworthy relents and sends her home to her parents, lectures Tom and then goes off by himself for an evening of “melancholy Contemplation.” He’s a man of high morals and is horribly disappointed in Tom’s actions—but

whatever Detestation Mr. Allworthy had to this or to any other Vice, he was not so blinded by it but that he could discern any Virtue in the guilty Person, as clearly indeed as if there had been no Mixture of Vice in the same Character. While he was angry therefore with the Incontinence of Jones, he was no less pleased with the Honour and Honesty of his Self-accusation. He began now to form in his Mind the same Opinion of this young Fellow, which, we hope, our Reader may have conceived. And in balancing his Faults with his Perfections, the latter seemed rather to preponderate.

Nevertheless, Square takes this opportunity to twist and spin these events to convince Allworthy that Tom has only been Black George’s friend in order to corrupt Molly, and succeded to stamp “in the Mind of Allworthy the first bad Impression concerning Jones.”

Sophie is now battling with herself, resolved not to have anything to do with Tom any more and to stop loving him—she falls for him again and again every time she sees him. So she tries to avoid him, even coming up with a plan to visit her Aunt.

But Fortune, who had other Designs in her Head, put an immediate Stop to any Proceeding, by introducing an Accident, which will be related in the next Chapter.

What brings her to this accident? Well…

Mr. Western grew every Day fonder and fonder of Sophia, insomuch that his beloved Dogs themselves almost gave Place to her in his Affections; but as he could not prevail on himself to abandon these, he contrived very cunningly to enjoy their Company, together with that of his Daughter, by insisting on her riding a hunting with him.

While hunting, her horse got a little whiled and she was almost thrown from it. Tom arrives in the nick of time and catches her before she falls (and is likely trampled). He breaks his arm doing so, but shrugs off the injury.

Sophie stops fighting her feelings for Tom and Tom realizes that he has some for her.

There’s a whole lot of words involved in progressing things just a hair—but the best parts of this book isn’t so much about the story, but about the way that Fielding is telling it. As such, there’s a whole lot to enjoy in this part of the journey. Nothing as enjoyable as in some weeks, nothing as dull as in others—just a lot of pleasantness. Works for me.