Small Vices (Spenser, #24)

ISBN: 0425162486
ISBN 13: 9780425162484
By: Robert B. Parker

Check Price Now


Crime Default Detective Fiction Mysteries Mystery Robert B Parker Spenser Suspense To Read

About this book

Ellis Alves is no angel. But his lawyer says he was framed for the murder of college student Melissa Henderson...and asks Spenser for help. From Boston's back streets to Manhattan's elite, Spenser and Hawk search for suspects, including Melissa's rich-kid, tennis-star boyfriend. But when a man with a .22 puts Spenser in a coma, the hope for justice may die with him...

Reader's Thoughts

Leslie Jem

Spenser gets shot and hides out in LA while recovering.


90 out of 100 for 2010This may be my favorite of the entire Spenser series. By the mid-Ninties, he had grown a bit predictale, not stale but not fresh. In the early novels, Spenser was vulnerable--tough, lost fights, and, except for the fact that it was series fiction, his fate was in doubt--you knew Spenser could lose, and his vulnerability made him more interesting. By the Nineties, he'd grown invulnerable, and, p'raps, a bit less inteesting.Then came 'Small Vices.' Spenser loses, and nearly dies; he does NOT win in a final shoot out (doesn't actually kill anyone, either), an the murder that started the case proves not to be a murder.All the great stuff you expect in a Spenser, along with a genuinely interesting plot.


Reminiscent of Philip Marlowe, Spenser beats death to get (both) his men!Advance the clock forty years from Chandler's Philip Marlowe series, and voila, we have Spenser! (Actually Parker is an admitted Chandler fan and even finished one of his books {"Poodle Springs"} for him and authored a sequel of Chandler's first novel, "The Big Sleep.") Like Marlowe, Spenser's tough-guy, private-eye work is his definition, and without it, he is nothing - a lesson that alternatively threatens then rejuvenates his relationship with lover Susan. This was our first Spenser story, so we have no background on the characters nor does "Vices" offer much. But the plot sizzled, the relationship with Susan provided interesting byplay, and in the end, things worked out in a satisfying fashion, with the exception of the man freed from jail, who was a total ingrate. The premise is that an innocent man was framed for a co-ed's murder, and a law firm hires Spenser to double check the outcome some four years later. That all the witnesses are lying, and that Spenser starts to get pushed around for his snooping, makes it seem likely right off the bat that something is awry. When a mysterious contract killer, the "Grey Man", nearly offs our hero, Susan, Hawk, and Spenser take a year in hiding to rehab (probably the least plausible portion of the story in terms of careers, money, etc.). Spenser then turns the tables by hunting the Grey Man while continuing to work the original crime to an entertaining conclusion. Suspense builds all the way to the end, keeping those pages turning briskly! We can see why Spenser and Parker enjoy considerable success. The writing is fine, the plot amuses, and some stuff on the side provides a thought provoking moment or two. Our only quibble is that we didn't particularly care for how the women in the book threw themselves at our leading man; while allegedly he's a "hunk", women tossing their clothes or thrusting their assets at him so readily seemed unseemly, though possibly that was a ploy to prove his fidelity to Susan. All-in-all, a good mystery -- good enough to encourage us to seek out more of Parker's lengthy bibliography.

Cathy Cusson

Love the depth of Hawk's friendship. He goes above and beyond helping Spenser recuperate.


One of the best books in the Spenser series.This is my second reading of Small Vices . I'd read it before, years ago, and all I remembered was that this is the one in which Spenser gets himself shot and very nearly killed. (The beauty, I guess, of having so many Spenser novels is that it is hard to keep them all straight so I can go back and re-read them like they're new every few years). If you are familiar with Spenser, most of your favorites see some action. If not, this may be a good one to start with, although I would recommend some of the older ones to begin. The never-aging Spenser lives through an entire year of his life in this one, but don't worry, he still doesn't age. Neither do Hawk or Susan. They're like James Bond in that respect. It used to bug me but I know that I don't want to read about Hawk and Spenser's adventures in a nursing home.Read all of my reviews of books by Robert B. Parker here:


Spenser and Hawk, great as always!


** spoiler alert ** This was kind of fun, maybe not too memorable, first appearance of the gray man, not sure if there will be more of them. I reads easy and it flows pretty nice.

Brenda Margriet

One of my all time favourites. Spenser investigates for Rita Fiore. A black man was sent to prison for the rape and murder of a white woman, but she thinks he didn't get a good defense, so wants to make sure the right man went to jail.Turns into a race related case, where the good guy (a black man "saved" by adoption into a rich white family) is protected while the bad black man goes to jail. It also introduces The Gray Man, and spans more than a year while Spenser recovers from a near fatal shooting. Oh, yeah...and Susan wants to adopt a baby.Has so many plots that interweave and dance's absolute stunning. And Parker's writing is sparse and poetic and violent...perfect.


Found a first edition at the thrift store for a buck. ($1.06 with tax.) So what the hell.Meatier than the most recent Spenser novels, and we only get one extended kitchen sequence. ("I sliced the Venezuelan beaver cheese that I get from a guy who lives in a refrigerator crate under the Tobin Bridge. He doesn't volunteer where it comes from, and I don't ask.")Nice conundrum — if Spenser gets the wrongfully convicted guy out of jail, will he a) get killed for his trouble and b) cause more trouble since the guy is not exactly a model citizen ?Good story, funny dialogue.


#24 in the inestimable Spenser need to rehash the plot here, but it's a dandy and I notice Parker's humor more and more. For example, Spenser is gathering information at a college bar and a co-ed finds out he's a PI and asks, "Is it like on TV?""Exactly," I said. "A lot of times I send my stunt double to do the hard stuff."Or..."When it rains in Southern California the television stations do the same thing they do in Boston when it snows. They pretend the sky is falling. They show the storm's path on radar. They give tips on how to survive the rain. They send out reporters in Eddie Bauer rain gear to ask people stuff like, 'How are you coping with this rain?'"I also appreciate his skills as a stylist more, as in this place-setting passage at a rich couple's apartment in Manhattan (this book has an unusually disparate geography for Spenser):"I was pretty sure no one had ever eaten a green pepper pizza in this room, or made love on one of the off-white damask couches in this room, or sat around in their shorts in this room and read the Sunday paper. Men in dark expensive suits, with red ties and white broadcloth shirts, might, on occasion, have clinked ice in short, thick highball glasses while tried to think of conversation to make in this room. Women in tight, long, expensive dresses with pearls that matched the decor might have held crystal flutes of Krug champagne while they gazed blankly out the window at the panorama of the park in this room. Waiters dressed in black tie, bearing small silver trays of endive with salmon roe, might have circulated in this room. And a nanny might, possibly, have walked through this room holding the hand of a small child in a zipped-up snowsuit on his way to be walked in the park on a cold Sunday afternoon, when the light was gray and the sun was very low in the southern sky. I would have bet all I had that the fireplace had never been warm."Parker/Spenser is always worth a revisit.


** spoiler alert ** I can't believe I have to read this book for a book club. What could there possibly be to discuss in a pulpy novel like this one, cranked out by the author along with 50 others? I'm laughing just writing that. (And how can I avoid thinking of Robert Urich the whole time, who starred in the long-running TV series, which, of course, I didn't watch.) It's partly my own fault, for nominating too many books that competed for votes. The only good thing is that reviewers on this site say this is one of the best in the series. And it can't possibly be more annoying to read than last month's selection.FINAL UPDATE - ***CONTAINS SPOILERS***I thought this book had early promise - the crime Spenser is investigating is the wrongful conviction of a young black man, and issues of racism were front and center at first. I was actually enjoying the book for the first 1/2 or so, but then it got very silly, with lots of macho passages - the great Spenser eludes every threat and out-thinks every advesary. This is very much what I suspected the book would be like. Then he gets shot, and spends many chapters in Santa Barbara recovering. Zzzzzzzzz. In the end, the moral dilemma is stated, but not resolved - 2 very bad criminals go free and the lives of two decent people who made a big mistake are ruined. What is the author saying about this??? (Like Donna Tartt with The Secret History, we are dragged along for this story and then the major issue is not adequatedly considered.)Overall, I thought the book was not very satisfying and not even a very good read (uneven and cliched). And what the hell does the title mean??? The "vices" of these characters are very great indeed. Is he being ironic?I especially disliked the side story about Susan and Spenser adopting a child - the issue is resolved quickly, neatly, and without rancor, in (of course) the way that Spenser desired all along. It was just so bull-shitty. Susan is basically a device - she isn't developed much as a character, and mostly her scenes in the book serve to show what a wonderful man Spenser is, either because she says so, or because he brings her food, or they have sex, or whatever. Gah!I found myself thinking about the books I've enjoyed lately, like Fire or Poison Study, where the "star" of the book is not unlike Spenser - wise and capable, and admired by other characters. But I genuinely think there's a difference - these characters are full of self doubt, and the reader hears their internal conversation. Spenser has no doubts, no "psychology" really, which makes the book (presumably all 50 books) much less entertaining to me.


SMALL VICES - ExParker, Robert - 24th in Spencer seriesEllis Alves is no angel. But his lawyer says he was framed for the murder of college student Melissa Henderson...and asks Spenser for help.From Boston's back streets to Manhattan's elite, Spenser and Hawk search for suspects, including Melissa's rich-kid, tennis-star boyfriend. But when a man with a .22 puts Spenser in a coma, the hope for justice may die with him.Parker is a master. Character, sense of place, dialogue; no one does them better. I can always count on him for a great read!

Syd Perry

My lower rating is based on format more than the book itself. I listened to this book on CD in the car.Issue 1 -- Narrator. I've listened to 2 Spenser books narrated by Joe Mantegna and I absolutely love Joe as Spenser. Small Vices was read by Burt Reynolds. Burt has a beautiful, deep, rich, smooth voice...but he's not Joe and therefore not Spencer. And it seems that his deep melted chocolate range is where I have hearing loss. There were parts that sounded like a bass melody with no words. When his voice changed to a female range, no problem. I admire audio book readers who have distinct voices for different characters and always use the right voice when that character speaks. Burt was alwys spot on. But so was Joe. Request: In a series, stick with the same reader, especially when the book is written in first person. (Bonus: Harry Potter on audio is a great experience. Jim Dale is the most amazing audio book reader and did ALL the Harry Potter books.)Issue 2 -- Bad Language. I'm not a fan of the F word or the array of other less than pristine language. It grates on my nerves when it is used profusely. Perhaps it wouldn't be so offensive in written form when your eyes can skim over those words. But on audio, they hit your ears with equal force every time. Another drawback, I couldn't listen to this story with my grandson in the car.Issue 3 -- What's with the music between chapters? Every single chapter ends and the next one begins with wind chimes, a drum solo, flute music, jazz piano... something to mark the changing chapters. But why? It just makes me think it's time to change CDs. And it breaks the flow of the story. Unnecessary and distracting.The story itself was really good. The characters Spenser, Susan and Hawke are among the best. I like their never failing loyalty and their super-human qualities.


Spenser investigates when a doubtful DA feels guilty about serial lowlife she helped convict of gruesome murder.


spenseri actualy bought this paperback at Bookman's in Flagstaff right before getting on the plane back to LAX>good read about the grey man.January 2011 book on tape with BURT REYNOLDs, a personal friend of robert parker.i'm one of the few who really like reynolds reading of this least four starsSpenser as we have never seen him before: near death, having taken three bullets from a hired assassin. Most men would give up, but who ever said that Spenser was like most men?Spenser embarks on the long, hard road of rehabilitation with his friend, Hawk, and his lover, Susan, by his side.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *