ROBERT B. PARKER – Hundred-Dollar Baby. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, hardcover; First Edition, October 2006. Reprint paperback: Berkley, September 2007.

ROBERT B. PARKER Hundred Dollar Baby

   It was the ending of Ceremony (1982), that was quite controversial at the time, as I recall. A young teen-aged prostitute named April Kyle running from her pimp was able to win Spenser over to her side, and at the end, unable to come up with a better solution, he set her up as a call girl with a madam in Manhattan named Patricia Utley.

   April Kyle was also in Taming a Sea Horse (1986), or so I’ve been told, but if I’ve read that one, I don’t remember it, or I have the ending of the previous book mixed up between the two. (If I don’t take notes, an example of which you’re reading right now, then I tend to mis-remember things.) In any case, in Million-Dollar Baby both Parker and his alter ego, the wise-cracking Boston PI named Spenser, revisit that decision.

   Well. That may be all the plot you need to know. Naturally Spenser needs Susan Silverman right about here as the partner in a lengthy discussion about commercial sex and its pluses and minuses, the effect on society as well on the effect on the women taking an active part in the world’s oldest profession. To coin a phrase.

   This is not as deadly as it sounds, but either you enjoy the relationship between Susan Silverman and Spenser, or you don’t. If you don’t, you probably aren’t reading this review anyway. But as it so happens, I do. I also enjoy it when Spenser needs some muscle, which means calling on the author’s other alter ego, Hawk.

   Manly talk is what goes on then, rather than the domestic talk between Spenser and Susan Silverman, but I have to be honest with you, they are all part and parcel of Robert B. Parker’s fictional world, one of his own creation and one he allowed us to visit once or twice a year while he was alive, and even though he’s gone now, we still have the books.

   In any case, April has branched off from Patricia Utley and has set up shop in Boston, where things went well for a while, but she has now been receiving threats from a gangster and she needs Spenser to cool things down. Which means Spenser needs Hawk. (See above.)

   There are complications, of course, and the fact that everyone is telling lies makes things even more difficult. Some quotes, if I may. From page 19. Spenser is telling Susan about his new case:

    “April Kyle has resurfaced,” I said.

    “The little girl you steered into a life of prostitution?”

    “I saved her from a life of degrading prostitution and steered her to a life of whoredom with dignity,” I said.

    “If there is a such,” Susan said.

   And from pages 209-210. Spenser is talking with one of the suburban housewives who have been working for April in her new venture:

    Amy didn’t look like Bev, but she had the same suburban-mom quality. She was wearing a thick sweater over jeans. Her hair was short. She wore sunglasses like a headband.

    “So how come you’re just having coffee?” she said.

    “Bad for the tough guy image,” I said, “eating ice cream in public.”

    “If you’re after image,” she said, “you should be drinking the coffee black,”

    “I’m not that tough,” she said.

    She giggled

    “You’re a cutie,” she said.

    “But intrepid,” I said.

    “An intrepid cutie,” she said and giggled again.

   Make no doubt about it, though. Spenser is one tough character, and the ending of Hundred-Dollar Baby proves it.