Friday, April 14, 2017

Review of Mortal Stakes by Robert B. Parker (1975, Dell)

Boston PI Spenser has been hired by the Red Sox to investigate whether their star pitcher, Marty Rabb, has been throwing the occasional game.  Posing as a sports writer, Spenser starts to poke his nose into the affairs of the franchise.  He soon starts to suspect that all is not well in the Rabb household. In particular, there’s something a little out-of-kilter with Marty’s wife Linda.  With a little digging it Spenser discovers that Linda has a shady past; enough to attract the attention of a careful blackmailer.  And that blackmailer is not happy to have Spenser nosing around.

Mortal Stakes is the third book in the Spenser series (that ran to 39).  In this outing, Spenser is investigating the possibility that Red Sox baseball games are being fixed.  He quickly hones in on the potential vulnerable point in the life of salt-of-the-Earth, star pitcher, Marty Rabb.  It seems that a manager’s suspicions are correct, but rather than confirm the rumour and close the case Spenser prefers to help Rabb and his wife fix their problem and give them a second-chance.  That brings him into conflict with a ruthless blackmailer.  Parker tells the tale in a no-nonsense fashion.  There are no major twists or misdirection, and limited use of plot devices.  Rather the tale is just a well-told straightforward, linear PI investigation - Spenser spots a clue and then tracks down an answer.  The story moves along at a fair clip, with a series of tension points, and there’s a nice sense of time and place (Boston in the mid-1970s).  Overall, an enjoyable, uncomplicated PI tale.

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