'Deuce' is filled with crisp dialogue, a tight plot

July 12, 1992|By Gregory Krolczyk


Robert B. Parker.


tTC 224 pages. $19.95.

"You working on anything?" Hawk said.

"I was thinking about breakfast," I said.

"I might need some support," Hawk said.

"You might?"

"Yeah. Pay's lousy."

"How much?" I said.

"I'm getting nothin."

"I'll take half," I said.

"You ain't worth half," Hawk said. "Besides I got the job and already put in a lot of time on it. Give you a third."

And with only just a little more banter, Spenser and Hawk roll out for their next case.

This time the client is a neighborhood church group. Several days earlier, a 14-year-old girl and her 3-month-old baby became victims of a drive-by shooting. The shooters are thought to be the Hobarts, a group of gangbangers who make their headquarters in a Boston housing project known as the Double Deuce. The church group wants the neighborhood cleansed, and is simply elated that Hawk has agreed to do it. That is, until Hawk shows up with "the white Satan" himself -- Spenser.

For a while there it seemed as though Robert B. Parker had simply lost the magic. Then he proved otherwise with "Stardust" and "Pastime." And now? Suffice it to say that "Double Deuce" is his best in years, and maybe his best ever.

While dialogue, especially the sharp-witted variety, has long been one of Mr. Parker's fortes, he has outdone himself here. In addition to the almost constant repartee between Hawk and Spenser, Mr. Parker also had to tackle the dialogue of the black gangbangers who use a language all their own. That he did a sterling job with the former is no surprise. But that he handles the latter with complete aplomb most certainly is, considering how unconvincing a job he did with the young black characters in 1989's "Playmates."

Presumably, a major part of the credit for this goes to Karen Panasevich, the woman who, according to the book's dedication, taught Mr. Parker about the workings of youth gangs. Ms. Panasevich also undoubtedly served as the model for one of the book's new characters, Erin Macklin. It is through this character that Mr. Parker shares with the reader insights into the gangbangers' perspective on life, insights that put some very interesting icing on a plot that is already quite tasty.

Interesting, too, are the subplots in "Double Deuce." This time, Hawk not only finds a kindred spirit (of sorts), but we also get a peek into his past. Plus, at Susan's urging, she and Spenser try cohabitation.

Crackling dialogue, a fast-paced, tight plot, subplots galore . . . What more could you ask for?

Another Spenser book without a year's wait, that's what.

Mr. Krolczyk is a writer living in Baltimore.

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