Small Vices (Spenser, #24)

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

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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

Jeff Yoak

In spite of being the second (I think of two) Spenser novels narrated by Burt Reynolds, this was absolutely wonderful. It had all of the normal good stuff... a solid mystery, excitement, a look into interesting minds of the antagonists and plenty of action. It also stands out because Spenser comes up against an adversary arguably stronger than himself. Fairly early on, this antagonist nearly kills Spenser.This brush with death gives Parker a chance to delve deeper than before in several directions. We've always known Spenser is strong in all sorts of ways, and tough both in the sense of being a favorite in most fights and the sense of mental toughness. In Small Vices, his recovery shows just how deep the toughness runs. We get to explore just what it is, deep inside, that makes Spenser what he is.Parker finds numerous opportunities to tell us about various aspects of love, including the special relationships he has with people like Hawk. This takes it much further. Hawk constantly at his side might just make the recovery possible, and the characters even admit to each other that Spenser might not have made it through that year otherwise. We see the love from Susan broaden as she seems to reach a new level of really accepting, and loving, what Spenser is. We even learn a lot about Spenser watching his resolution with his antagonist. Parker is fond of describing Spenser, Hawk, Vinny and a few others as men who will "do what they say they'll do," and fans of the series will understand this means much more than the surface interpretation."Doing what he says" presents much greater challenges in this book than in any other. He's seeing to the conviction of a promising, young college boy who is guilty, but mostly made a stupid mistake and his father, who broke the law to save his son -- which Spenser admits he might have done himself. In exchange, he gets to free a rapist thug from prison after proving he hadn't committed the specific crime of which he had been convicted. He also frees a man who deeply frightens him, who nearly killed him and who threatened Susan, knowing that he may even tangle with the man again and that he's good enough to get Spenser. It's all utterly consistent with who and what Spenser is, and he couldn't act otherwise. Through this, we get get to know him even more deeply.If you are coming to the Spenser series out of order, this one would be fine, but not particularly special. For long-reading fans of the series, I suspect this one will often be a favorite.


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!


#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.

David S.

Spenser is one of those fictional characters that you have to love. And, this one, "Small Vices" ranks up with the best I have read in the Spenser series (that being said, I have not read "Catskill Eagles": everyone seems to think this is the best one of the series.)Okay, so we have all our favourite characters in the Spenser series: Susan, Hawk, and Spenser himself. We have a couple of minor characters from previous novels (mostly in law enforcement) that have helped Spenser out in the past. So, this gives the reader comfort to recognize some old friends. Then Parker goes out and has the main part of the novel happen damn close to 200 pages into the novel. Most authors would just be satisfied with the vengence factor, and they'd just have a bloodbath which makes everyone feel safe again. However, Robert Parker takes the time to use this situation to make his character grow, gain another dimension, and make Spenser seem not only plausable, but, real.And, of course, the dialogue is classic. Sometimes, laugh out loud funny. This is solely for entertainment. And, for entertainment, you can do a helluva lot worse than Spenser!Recommend. Yes4 Stars


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

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.


** spoiler alert ** Re-read so I can teach it this fall, and it's both better than I remembered and longer than I remembered. As other reviewers have noted, this is a book with two stories: one where Spenser is attempting to uncover the truth behind a college girl's murder on campus, and one where as a result of that investigation, Spenser is nearly killed and must recover before continuing his work. At that time in the series, Spenser was injured more often, but never had been injured this severely, and it was not impossible that Parker could be thinking of ending the series with his death, or at least was considering what that might look like in the end. It truly was shocking.

Tim Healy

I'm back to Spenser after a long layoff. Eventually, I may even finish the series.This one's good. The story is interesting because the case isn't really a sympathetic cause. Once he's committed to it, though, Spenser won't give it up. The gang's all here for this one, too. It's not just Hawk, Susan, and Pearl. We have also: Healy, Quirk (who's been promoted to Captain), Belsen, Farrell, Vinnie, Gino Fish, Paul Giacomin, Henry Cimoli, Patricia Utley, and her butler Steven. Parker was apparently feeling good about it, too, 'cause there are lots of quotes from Eliot. He even invented a word. I know, because I tried to look it up to find what it means. It's not in any of the online dictionaries I use. I found it by tracking fan commentary on the book. The word: contumescent. Go!With Parker, it's always the character interactions and dialogue that make the books work. The interactions between Hawk and Spenser are worth the price of admission. Best line of the book goes to Henry Cimoli, though. I'll leave you to find it.If you like Parker, this is a good read.


This is the second Spenser novel in a row, and the only two I'veread, where Spenser is shot and seriously injured. They werewritten 13 years apart. Interesting book with an emphasison justice. A young prosecutor feels she mishandled a caseand her client was unjustly convicted of murder. She nowgets her law firm to review the case, so they hire Spenser. When Spenser is seriously injured he goes to SouthernCalifornia with Susan and Hawk for 10 months to rehabilitate. I loved this observation of TV weather reporting: "When itrains in Southern California the television stations do the samething they do in Boston when it snows. They pretend the sky isfalling. The show the storm's path on radar. They give tips onideas to survive the rain. They send out reporters in EddieBauer rain gear to ask people stuff like, "How are you copingwith this rain?"

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.

Larry Johnson

It had been a while since I had read one of Robert Parker's Spenser novels, but I'm glad I picked this one up. In this one Spenser is hired to prove that a man was wrongfully sentenced to prison. The problem is that the man has a record and nobody wants him to be let out of prison. Spenser must deal with finding the truth, figure out who and why someone wants him dead, and overcome nearly being killed. It is no wonder the Spenser novels are popular and spawned a TV series. The only draw back I found in this novel was not having enough of Spenser's long time friend, Hawk, involved. I'll have to find some more of these when out looking for used books. The only thing better would be to see them on TV again.


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.


** 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.


** 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.


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.

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