Small Vices (Spenser, #24)

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

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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

Kerstin Lampert

I learned of an author, Robert B. Parker with a strange way of telling the story of a detective with street smarts....and a worldly approach to life. He has friends with special skills, like "Hawk" who seems to stay with the program as long as Spenser, needs him.


#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.


I've never read a Robert Parker novel before, I really enjoyed this one. A very straight forward read with lots of plot twists. A thrilling read and I definitely will be reading another Robert Parker novel.

Cathy Cusson

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


** 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.

Cathy DuPont

This book reminded me of why I love Robert B. Parker's writing and especially Spenser and Hawk. Susan, I guess she's dug herself out of the hole I've had her in for the past few books. Maybe. This fine read delves even deeper into the relationship Spenser and Hawk are so fortunate to have. It's a mutual trust and dare I say love? Well, I think they probably would agree. How about a serious bromance? Does that include love?A worthy read and has reminded me of why I enjoy reading the Spenser series. Many a mile to go until I'm finished. Just glancing at other reviews, I'm not alone in my opinion.


** 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.

Steven Belanger

Read this one already, as I have every Parker book, but I read something about The Grey Man, so I thought I'd give this another shot. Better than I remembered, but not one of his best. The time passing seems oddly handled, and you would think Rugar would find him immediately again once he got his apartment back. Fairly long for Spenser/Parker, but everything good about the series is evident here. All minor characters from the series make an appearance here. Overall, very good and, as usual, addictive reading.


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.

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.

Ted Mallory

I won't go so far as to say that this was the all time best Spenser novel, but it may just be the quintessential Spenser novel- the best for readers who are already Spenser fans, chock full of just about every reoccurring character who's ever appeared in the series. A little like Jimmy Stewart in 'It's a Wonderful Life,' ol Spense finds out how many friends really care about him and how much when a high priced hit man puts him in a comma. They're talking about making one of the books into a movie or reviving a TV series based on these books. My wife thinks Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson could play Spenser. It took me a while but I'm warming up to the idea. He's the right size and funny enough. Thing is, there will never be another Hawk besides Avery Brooks, who played him in the 80's TV show.


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:


The cover of most middle and late Spenser novels tend to say something about "the best Spenser in years" or "Parker rises again." But this one really does rise above. It feels like Parker put more of himself into this one. The spare language, as always, helps propel the story. But there are also whole pages without a paragraph break - shocking for RBP. His descriptions of the Gray Man are great, especially his eyes - bottoms of bottle caps, washers (of the hardware type). Underlying the book is a sense of mortality. Susan wants to adopt, Spenser not so much. And when he almost is killed, the tremendous effort he puts into survival is breath-taking. But more so is Susan and Hawk's support. They never question - they're just there. By the end, Spenser finds a way, but Spenser, and perhaps RBP, is feeling the rub of time.

Cathy Spencer

OK, I'm a Robert B. Parker fan. I've read them all. And I admire R.B.'s stamina and longevity with the series. I'll miss not having anymore of his books to read - he passed away this year.Of the 3 characters in his series, Spenser is my favourite, and Small Vices is my favourite of the Spensers. Spenser is good, but he gets shot by the "grey man" and has to rehabilitate himself outside of Boston with his lady love and his long-time friend, Hawk. The description of his rehabilitation is inspiring, and the rematch between himself and the man who put him in the hospital is exciting. I love Spenser's humour - he's a wise-guy and he knows it. He likes to take the starch out of the pretentious, but he's not cruel. He's generous. He's also an old-fashioned maverick who operates by his own code of ethics and doesn't overthink his motives, which I find refreshing in this day and age. And what I find truly admirable about Spenser is his love and commitment to his lady. He knows she's not perfect and damn if the two of them can live together, but nothing, not even his code of ethics, would stop him from helping her if she needed him.To be truthful, I find the older books better written than the latest ones, but I still recommend the whole series. Enjoy.


This is one of those books that gives me a dilemma when it comes to reviewing it because the major event in this one doesn’t occur until well into the story so it seems like some kind of spoiler warning is in order. However, that event is described in the book jacket and even in the plot summary on Goodreads so I’m not exactly giving away the ending of The Sixth Sense. Hell, I guess since no one else worried about it, I won’t either. You have been warned.Spenser gets hired by attorney and old friend Rita Fiore to look into Ellis Alves. Rita was the prosecutor when Alves, a black man, was charged with killing a white college girl, and Rita got him sent to prison without breaking a sweat. Now working for a high priced law firm, Rita has become worried that Alves might have been innocent, and that his race and an inexperienced defense attorney may have allowed her to wrongly convict him. Spenser begins investigating and quickly decides that Alves was framed, and the trail leads to the college tennis star who has a wealthy family. A formidable hitman who dresses all in gray suddenly appears and warns Spenser off. The Gray Man (as Spenser dubs him) seems like such a threat that he calls in almost every tough guy he knows to guard Susan, but Spenser continues working the case. So the Gray Man kills him.Yep, poor old Spenser gets shot full of holes, falls off a bridge into an icy river, and his heart stops. After being saved by modern medical science, zombie Spenser faces a long and painful rehab with the help of Hawk and Susan while almost everyone else thinks he's dead. Can Spenser recover, find the Gray Man and get Alves freed from prison? Come on, it’s Spenser! Anybody really have any doubt how this is gonna play out?This could have been a major book in the series and possibly injected some fresh life into it’s later years. There’s a lot of potential for intriguing drama with the idea of a macho tough guy like Spenser being badly injured, and the rehab stuff does make for a nice break from the routine with the usually ultra-confident and physically fit Spenser struggling to walk up a hill and having to spend countless hours learning how to punch and shoot all over again.But once he’d brought his hero low, Parker couldn’t wait to build him back up again. I’m not saying that he should have put Spenser in a wheelchair for the remainder of the series, but the entire shooting, rehab, resolving the case and dealing with the Gray Man occurs in the second half of the book. Maybe stretching the storyline through a couple of books would have given it more weight and allowed some deeper exploration of what being that badly hurt would do to someone like Spenser. Instead, Parker mostly bypasses that idea in his rush to get Spenser back to his old self as soon as possible.Oh, and as usual Susan is being annoying. This time she’s nagging Spenser to adopt and raise a child with her. Yawn.This is still a good Spenser story, but it’s always seemed like a lot of potential was wasted here. This could have been a watershed event that shaped and defined Spenser for the remainder of the series, but instead it becomes just another obstacle for him to overcome with no real lasting effects. Next up: Spenser meets Susan’s ex-husband in Sudden Mischief. Yeah, it’s a book heavy on the Susan. *sigh*

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