With few exceptions, I've bought the bulk of Robert B. Parker's books in paperback to keep my costs down. In recent years, I've stopped buying his Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall books (roughly since Jesse and Sunny began dating). Perhaps as a result of reading less Parker, I found his latest Spenser paperback, Now and Then, refreshing.
For many years, Parker seemed to ignore the passage of time, keeping Spenser and friends in an ageless state that didn't let him comment on current events as he had so sharply in earlier books. From time to time in the series, other aspects of Spenser's persona seemed to blur away: the cooking, the workouts, the literary quips. I'm happy to report these aspects, along with a key part of Spenser's personal history, are back in focus in Now and Then, and the plot touches on issues as current as the Bush administration, the war on terror, and the Red Sox 2004 championship.
Dennis Doherty hires Spenser simply to find out what his wife, Jordan Richmond, is up to. Soon after Spenser brings Doherty evidence of Jordan's affair, both Dennis and Jordan are found dead. With no reason to stay on the case beyond empathy, Spenser is nonetheless determined to get some brand of justice for Dennis and Jordan.
In light of Parker's spotty record keeping Spenser's history, I found the following line particularly pointed as Spenser remarked on Jordan's lover's dubious past:
"Isn't that dumb?" I said. "To make up a story that doesn't make sense in terms of simple chronology?"