Did you know that Robert Urich AND Joe Mantegna played Spenser on TV? I didn’t (for Mantegna).
Who is Spenser?
Created by Robert B. Paker, Spenser is a Boston private eye. He is a well-educated ex-boxer and former State trooper who lives by a code of honor. And he likes to drink Scotch. His best friend and sidekick is Hawk, an African American who is a “Gun for Hire” who lives by his own personal code.
Spenser and Hawk live in the same Boston literary universe as Parker’s other characters like private investigator Sunny Randall and small-town police chief Jesse Stone.
Spenser Books in Order:
Sadly, Robert B. Parker died in 2010, but the series continues—like Jesse Stone series. It’s journalist and author Ace Atkins who’s writing the books now.
I. Spenser by Robert B. Parker:
- The Godwulf Manuscript – Spenser earned his degree in the school of hard knocks, so he is ready when a Boston university hires him to recover a rare, stolen manuscript. He is hardly surpised that his only clue is a radical student with four bullets in his chest.
- God Save the Child – Appie Knoll is the kind of suburb where kids grow up right. But something is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Kevin Bartlett disappears. Everyone thinks he’s run away — until the comic strip ransom note arrives. It doesn’t take Spenser long to get the picture — an affluent family seething with rage, a desperate boy making strange friends… friends like Vic Harroway, body builder. Mr. Muscle is Spenser’s only lead and he isn’t talking…except with his fists.
- Mortal Stakes – Everybody loves a winner, and the Rabbs are major league. Marty is the Red Sox star pitcher, Linda the loving wife. She loves everyone except the blackmailer out to wreck her life. Is Marty throwing fast balls or throwing games? It doesn’t take long for Spenser to link Marty’s performance with Linda’s past…or to find himself trapped between a crazed racketeer and an enforcer toting an M-16.
- Promised Land – Spenser is good at finding things. But this time he has a client out on Cape Cod who is in over his head. Harvey Shepard has lost his pretty wife — and a very pretty quarter million bucks in real estate. Now a loan shark is putting on the bite.Spenser finds himself doing a slow burn in the Cape Cod sun. The wife has turned up as a hot suspect in a case of murder one…the in-hock hubby has 24 hours before the mob makes him dead…and suddenly Spenser is in so deep that the only way out is so risky it makes dying look like a sure thing.
- The Judas Goat – Spenser has gone to London—and not to see the Queen. He’s gone to track down a bunch of bombers who’ve blown away his client’s wife and kids. His job is to catch them. Or kill them. His client isn’t choosy. But there are nine killers to one Spenser—long odds. Hawk helps balance the equation. The rest depends on a wild plan. Spenser will get one of the terrorists to play Judas Goat—to lead him to others.
- Looking for Rachel Wallace – Rachel Wallace is a radical feminist on tour with a controversial book, and she needs protection. Private detective Spenser, a little too wisecracking and direct for Rachel’s tastes, doesn’t last long as her bodyguard. But when Rachel vanishes in the depths of a Boston winter, Spenser must charge to her rescue.
- Early Autumn – A bitter divorce is only the beginning. First the father hires thugs to kidnap his son. Then the mother hires Spenser to get the boy back. But as soon as Spenser senses the lay of the land, he decides to do some kidnapping of his own. With a contract out on his life, he heads for the Maine woods, determined to give a puny 15 year old a crash course in survival and to beat his dangerous opponents at their own brutal game.
- A Savage Place – TV reporter Candy Sloan has eyes the color of cornflowers and legs that stretch all the way to heaven. She also has somebody threatening to rearrange her lovely face if she keeps on snooping into charges of Hollywood racketeering. Spenser’s job is to keep Candy healthy until she breaks the biggest story of her career. But her star witness has just bowed out with three bullets in his chest, two tough guys have doubled up to test Spenser’s skill with his fists, and Candy is about to use her own sweet body as live bait in a deadly romantic game.
- Ceremony – The house looked right. And the neighborhood was perfect. And everything else was wrong. So Spenser took the parents’ money and went after a runaway girl. Unfortunately, April Kyle had already traveled two lifetimes from her suburban home. Now she was caught up in a web of pinps, criminals, and exploiters—the kind of people who won’t listen to anything but money, or a gun…
- The Widening Gyre – The adoring wife of a senatorial candidate has a smile as sweet as candy and dots her “i’s” with little hearts. A blond beauty, she is the perfect mate for an ambitious politician, but she has a little problem with sex and drugs–a problem someone has managed to put on videotape. The big boys figure a little blackmail will put her husband out of the race. Until Spenser hops on the candidate’s bandwagon.
- Valediction – The most dangerous man to cross is one who isn’t afraid to die. But the most deadly is one who doesn’t want to live. And Spenser has just lost the woman who made life his #1 priority. So when a religious sect kidnaps a pretty young dancer, no death threat can make Spenser cut and run.
- A Catskill Eagle – Susan’s letter came from California: Hawk was in jail, and she was on the run. Twenty-four hours later Hawk is free, because Spenser has sprung him loose—for a brutal cross-country journey back to the East Coast. Now the two men are on a violent ride to find the woman Spenser loves, the man who took her, and the shocking reason so many people had to die…
- Taming a Sea-Horse – Spenser’s interest in teenage prostitute April Kyle leads him to Robert Rambeaux, ersatz Juilliard student and April’s pimp, and to Ginger Bucky, another of Rambeaux’s hookers, who suddenly turns up dead.
- Pale Kings and Princes – When a young journalist researching the cocaine trade in a small Massachusetts town is found murdered, private detective Spenser is called in to find out who is responsible. Wheaton isn’t just any small town though – Spenser soon discovers it’s one of the biggest cocaine distribution centres in the Northeast. But the local drugs cartel are not the only suspects…
- Crimson Joy – A serial killer is on the loose in Beantown and the cops can’t catch him. But when the killer leaves his red rose calling card for Spenser’s own Susan Silverman, he gets all the attention that Spenser and Hawk can give. Spenser plays against time while he tracks the Red Rose killer from Boston’s Combat Zone to the suburbs.
- Playmates – Spenser goes back to school–to investigate corruption in college town. Taft University’s hottest basketball star is shaving points for quick cash. And if Spenser doesn’t watch his own footwork, the guilty parties will shave a few years off his life…
- Stardust – Spenser’s never had a client like Jill Joyce, the star of TV’s Fifty Minutes. She’s beautiful, bitchy, sexy–and someone is stalking her. Spenser can hardly blame the would-be assassin…until he means the true meaning of “stage fright.”
- Pastime – Ten years ago, Spenser saved a teenage boy from a father’s rage. Now, on the brink of manhood, the boy seeks answers to his mother’s sudden disapearance. Spenser is the only man he can turn to. This time, it’s more than a routine search for a missing person–Spenser must search his own soul…
- Double Deuce – Double Deuce is a forgotten neighbourhood, home to some of Boston’s toughest gangs. Private detective Spenser and his sidekick, Hawk, have been tasked with cleaning up the area. But before they can begin, Spenser must take on the teenage thugs and gain control of the streets…
- Paper Doll – Hired by an aristocrat who refuses to believe that his wife’s brutal street-slaying was random violence, private detective Spenser suddenly finds himself in a world where nothing is what it seems, least of all the life – and death – of the victim…
- Walking Shadow – In a shabby waterfront town, an actor is shot dead onstage. Granted, the script left much to be desired. But there’s more behind the scenes than an overzealous critic—and Spenser and Hawk are combing Port City’s underworld to find it…
- Thin Air – Her name is Lisa St. Claire. Her husband’s a cop. Her whereabouts are unknown. Spenser thought he could help a friend find his missing wife. Until he learned the nasty truth about Lisa St. Claire. For starters, it’s not her real name…
- Chance – Mafia princess Shirley Meeker wants her husband back So does her father the kingpin and a few other shady characters Spenser and hawk head to Vegas to find Anthony Meeker and to confirm their suspicion that all these people aren’t just missing.
- Small Vices – 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…
- Sudden Mischief – Susan Silverman’s ex doesn’t call himself “Silverman” anymore–he’s changed his name to “Sterling.” And that’s not the only thing that’s phony about him. A do-gooding charity fundraiser, he’s been accused of sexual harassment by no less than four different women. And not long after Spenser starts investigating, Sterling is wanted for a bigger charge: murder…
- Hush Money – Spenser has his hands full when he takes on two cases at once. In the first, a high-minded university might be hiding a killer within a swamp of political correctness. And in the other, Spenser comes to the aid of a stalking victim, only to find himself the unwilling object of the woman’s dangerous affection.
- Hugger Mugger – Someone’s making death threats in Dixie – against a thoroughbred horse destined to be the next Secretariat. At the owner’s request, Boston P.I. Spenser hoofs it down South – where the lies are buzzing…and the dying is easy.
- Potshot – Boston private detective Spenser and his cohorts head west to Potshot, Arizona, a haven for California millionaires seeking an escape from their high-pressure lives, when the idyllic retreat is threatened by a vicious local gang, under the command of its charismatic leader The Preacher, which is systematically robbing the town’s wealthy inhabitants.
- Widow’s Walk – When fifty-one-year-old Nathan Smith, a prominent local banker and millionaire, is murdered, Spenser is called in to investigate Nathan’s young wife, Mary Smith, who has a weak alibi, likes to sleep around, and is despised by her peers, and as the evidence stacks up against Mary, Spenser soon discovers that Mary’s mysterious past has put his own life in danger.
- Back Story – In 1974, a revolutionary group held up the Old Shawmut Bank in Boston’s Audubon Circle. Money was stolen. And a woman named Emily Gordon was shot and killed. No one saw who shot her and the perpetrators have remained at large for nearly three decades. Enter Paul Giacomin, the closest thing to a son Spenser has. When Paul’s friend Daryl Gordon-daughter of the long-gone Emily-decides she needs closure regarding her mother’s death, it’s Spenser she turns to.
- Bad Business – When Spenser is hired by Marlene Cowley to conduct a surveillance job on a possible unfaithful husband, he discovers not only an adulterous spouse but also a second investigator, hired by the husband to look after his wife, in a case that embroils him with an unconventional–and unlawful–sex therapist, corporate corruption, and murder.
- Cold Service – When his friend, Hawk, is brutally injured after helping protect another man, bookie Luther Gillespie, Spenser throws himself into Hawk’s rehabilitation and investigates the Ukrainian mob he believes is responsible for the attack, a case that is complicated by local police force corruption.
- School Days – When a Massachusetts boy is accused of mass murder, his socially prominent grandmother is convinced of his innocence and is willing to fight for him. But based on the boy’s resigned attitude and the evidence stacked against him, Spenser isn’t convinced of anything…
- Hundred-Dollar Baby – In a tale that reintroduces the character of runaway prostitute April Kyle, a poised adult April, now the head of an upscale Boston call-girl operation, requests private investigator Spenser’s help in preventing a local kingpin from seizing control of her enterprise.
- Now and Then – Investigating a new client’s unfaithful wife, Boston private eye Spenser finds himself in a web of trouble when the seemingly open-and-shut case goes terribly wrong and three people wind up dead, a situation that reveals the wife’s lover’s ties to a terrorist organization.
- Rough Weather – Hired as a bodyguard at an exclusive wedding, Spenser witnesses an unexpected crime: the kidnapping of the young bride, which opens the door for murder, family secrets, and the reappearance of an old nemesis.
- Chasing the Bear – For the first time, see how it all began as Robert B. Parker sheds light on Spenser’s formative years spent with his father and two uncles out West. This is an event book for every fan of Spenser, and a revelation for teens about to discover an American icon.
- The Professional – The wives of Boston’s wealthiest men have a mutual secret: they all had an affair with the same cad who’s blackmailing them, and Spenser’s been hired to stop him. But when the wives start dying one by one, Spenser’s new case becomes murder.
- Painted Ladies – Spenser had a simple job-protect an art scholar during a ransom exchange for a stolen painting. No one was supposed to die. But the scholar had secrets no one knew, and uncovering them will endanger Spenser as well.
- Sixkill – A bad-boy movie star named Jumbo pushes the limits of his reputation when he’s accused of rape and murder. When the Boston PD calls on Spencer, he meets Jumbo’s young bodyguard, Zebulon Sixkill, and the two form an unlikely alliance. It’s a high profile case for Spenser, but the Hollywood secrets he uncovers are sordidly unsavory- and not just those of the accused…
Silent Night – Not finished when Robert Parker died, this story was completed by his literary agent, Helen Brann. It’s a white Christmas in Boston and Spenser and Susan are looking toward all the joys of the holiday. But the mood turns dark when a young boy named Slide contacts Spenser. Street-tough and world-weary, the eleven-year-old convinces Spenser to meet with Jackie Alvarez, who runs a shelter for homeless youth—one under inexplicable threats by persons unknown. Jackie and Slide need Spenser’s help to stop the intimidation before it escalates into something much worse. But when the source of the threats is revealed to be even more sinister than first imagined, Spenser must find a way to protect Slide and the other lost boys for whom the shelter is the last chance for a better life.
II. Spenser by Ace Atkins:
- Lullaby – Mattie Sullivan is not Spenser’s typical client. For a start, she’s just fourteen. Nor is her request a typical one – to take a case that’s already been solved. But this kid is wiser than her years. And this case is less clear-cut, and far more dangerous, than it appears.
- Wonderland – Henry Cimoli and Spenser have been friends for years, yet the old boxing trainer has never asked the private eye for a favor. Until now. A developer is trying to buy up Henry’s condo on Revere Beach. Soon Spenser and his apprentice, Zebulon Sixkill, are on the trail of a mysterious woman, a megalomaniacal Las Vegas kingpin, and a shady plan to turn a chunk of land north of Boston into a sprawling casino.
- Cheap Shot – Kinjo Heywood is one of the New England Patriots’ marquee players. He may be worth millions but his connection to a nightclub shooting two years before is still putting a dangerous spin on his life, and his career. When Heywood’s nine-year-old son, Akira, is kidnapped, and a winding trail through Boston’s underworld begins, Spenser puts together his own all-star team of toughs.
- Kickback – When her teenage son and other kids are imprisoned for misdemeanors, a woman hires private investigator Spenser to find the truth behind a corrupt judge’s unusually hard sentencing practices for minors.
- Slow Burn – The fire at a boarded-up Catholic church raged hot and fast, lighting up Boston’s South End and killing three firefighters who were trapped in the inferno. A year later, firefighter Jack McGee suspects arson. McGee is convinced department investigators aren’t sufficiently connected to the city’s lowlifes to get a handle on who’s behind the blaze—so he takes the case to Spenser.
- Little White Lies – Connie Kelly thought she’d found her perfect man on an online dating site. She fell so hard for handsome, mysterious M. Brooks Welles that she wrote him a check for almost three hundred thousand dollars, hoping for a big return on her investment. But within weeks, both Welles and her money are gone. Her therapist, Dr. Susan Silverman, hands her Spenser’s card…
- Old Black Magic – The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston’s premier art museums. Most thought the art was lost forever. But when paint chips from the most valuable piece stolen arrives at the desk of a Boston journalist, the museum finds hope and enlists Spenser’s help.
- Angel Eyes – Ellie Sharp left her Boston family with big dreams of making it as an actress in Hollywood. But two years later, she disappears from her Silver Lake apartment without her friends or police knowing what happened. Soon after the Sharps hire Spenser to find her, another person goes missing–this time Spenser’s protege-turned-L.A. investigator, Zebulon Sixkill.