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Early Autumn (The Spenser Series Book 7) Kindle Edition
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.
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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
The urban renewers had struck again. They’d evicted me, a fortune-teller, and a bookie from the corner of Mass. Ave. and Boylston, moved in with sandblasters and bleached oak and plant hangers, and last I looked appeared to be turning the place into a Marin County whorehouse. I moved down Boylston Street to the corner of Berkeley, second floor. I was half a block from Brooks Brothers and right over a bank. I felt at home. In the bank they did the same kind of stuff the fortune-teller and the bookie had done. But they dressed better.
I was standing in the window of my office looking out at a soft rainy January day with the temperature in the high fifties and no sign of snow. To the right across Boylston I could see Bonwit Teller. To the left Police Headquarters. In Bonwit’s windows there were mannequins wearing tight leather clothes and chains. Police headquarters leaned more to Dacron. In the window bay of the advertising agency across the street a young black-haired woman in high-waisted gray trousers leaned over a drawing board. Her back was toward the window.
“My compliments to your tailor,” I said out loud. My voice sounded odd in the empty room. The black-haired woman went away and I sat at my desk and looked at the picture of Susan Silverman. It was the blowup of a color picture taken last summer in her backyard. Her tanned face and pink blouse were bright against the dark green of the muted trees. I was still looking at Susan’s face when my office door opened and a client came in carrying a belted poplin raincoat over one arm.
“She said, “Mr. Spenser?”
I said, “I knew my clientele would upgrade when I moved in over a bank.”
She smiled wonderfully at me. She had blond hair that contrasted handsomely with her black eyes and dark eyebrows. She was small and very trim and elegant. She had on a tailored black suit and vest, white shirt, black bow tie with long ends like Brett Maverick used to wear, and black boots with very high narrow heels. She was wearing gold and it looked real: gold earrings, gold watch, gold chains around the neck, gold chain bracelets, a wide gold wedding band, and a large diamond in a gold setting. I was optimistic about my fee.
She said, “You are Mr. Spenser?”
I said, “Yes,” and stood up and held a chair for her. She had a precise walk and a very nicely integrated figure and she sat erect in the chair. I went around behind my desk again and sat down and smiled. Time was they started to undress when I smiled, but I guess the smile had lost a step. The black eyes looked at me very carefully. The hands folded still in the lap. Ankles crossed, face serious. She looked at my face, both shoulders, my chest, and as much of my stomach as showed behind the desk.
I said, “I have a puckered scar on the back of my right, ah, thigh where a man shot me about three years ago.”
“My eyes look maybe a little funny because I used to be a fighter. That’s scar tissue.”
“Apparently people hit you in the nose quite often too,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
She looked at me some more. At my arms, at my hands. Would I seem forward if I offered to drop trou? Probably.
I said, “Got all my teeth though. See.” I bared them.
“Mr. Spenser,” she said. “Tell me why I should employ you.”
“Because if you don’t you’ll have wasted all this sizing up,” I said. “You’ll have spent all this time impressing me with your no-nonsense elegance and your perfect control and gone away empty.”
She studied my forehead.
“And I look very dashing in a deer stalker and a trench coat.”
She looked directly at me and shook her head slightly.
“And I have a gun,” I said. I took it off my hip and showed it to her.
She turned her head away and looked out my window, where it had gotten dark and shiny with the lights glistening off the rain.
I put the gun away and clasped my hands and rested my elbows on the arms of my chair and propped my chin. I let the chair tip back on its spring and I sat and waited.
“Mr. Spenser, do you have time to waste like this,” she said.
“Yes, I do,” I said.
“Well, I do not,” she said and I lip- synched the words with her as she said them. That annoyed her.
“Don’t you want the job?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I said. “I don’t know what the job is.”
“Well, I want some evidence of your qualifications before I discuss it with you.”
“Hell, lady, I showed you my scar tissue and my gun. What else do you need?”
“This is a sensitive job. It is not a matter of guns. It involves a child.”
“Maybe you should get hold of Dr. Spock.”
Silence. She looked at my hands where my chin was resting.
“Your hands are very strong-looking,” she said.
“Want to see me crack a walnut?” I said.
“Are you married?” she said.
She smiled again. It was a good one. Hundred, hundred-fifty watt. But I’d seen better. Susan could have smiled her right into the woodwork. She moved her body slightly in the chair. She remained trim and upright, but somehow a wiggle came through.
I said, “If you bat your eyes at me I’m calling a policewoman.”
She wiggled again, without moving. How the hell does she do that?
“I’ve got to trust you,” she said. “I have no one else. I must turn to you.”
“Hard,” I said. “Hard for a woman alone, I’ll bet.”
Wiggle. Smile. Sigh. “Yes, I’ve got to find someone to help me. Will it be you?” She leaned forward slightly. She moistened her lower lip. “Will you help me?”
“I would gather stars,” I said, “out of the blue.”
“Don’t make fun of me,” she said. “I’m desperate.”
“What are you desperate about?”
“My son. His father has taken him.”
“And what would you like me to do?”
“Bring him back.”
“Are you divorced?”
“Do you have custody?”
“Yes, of course. I’m his mother.”
“Does his father have visitation privileges?”
“Yes, but this isn’t a visit. He’s taken Paul and he won’t bring him back.”
“And the court?”
“There’s a hearing, and Mel’s being subpoenaed but they can’t find him.”
“Is Mel your husband?”
“Yes. So I’ve spoken to the police and they said if they could find him they’d serve him a summons. But you know they aren’t going to look for him.”
“Probably not. They are sometimes busy,” I said.
“And so I want you to find him and bring my Paul back.”
“How’s the boy feel about all this?”
“Naturally he wants to be with his mother, but he’s only fifteen. He has no say. His father has simply taken him and hidden him.”
“Mel misses Paul that much?”
“He doesn’t miss him. He doesn’t care about Paul one way or the other. It’s merely his way of getting at me. He doesn’t want me to have Paul.”
“So he took him.”
“Good deal for the kid,” I said.
“Mel doesn’t care about that. He wants to hurt me. And he’s not going to.”
There was no wiggle when she said the last sentence. “I want you to bring that kid back to me, away from his father. Paul is legally mine.”
I was silent.
“I can pay any reasonable fee,” she said. “I got an excellent alimony settlement.” She was quite brisk and business-suity again.
I took in some air and let it out through my nose. I looked at her.
She looked back.
“What’s the matter,” she said.
I shook my head. “It does not sound like a real good time,” I said.
“Mr. Spenser,” the lower lip moistened again, mouth open a little, tip of the tongue running along the inner edge of the lip. “Please. I have no one else. Please.”
“There’s a question whether you need anyone else,” I said, “but I’ll take a whack at it on one condition.”
“You tell me your name so I’ll know where the bill gets sent.”
She smiled. “Giacomin,” she said, “Patty Giacomin.”
“Like the old Ranger’s goalie,” I said.
“Gentleman of the same name used to be a hockey player.”
“Oh. I’m afraid I don’t follow sports much.”
“No shame to it,” I said. “Matter of not being raised properly. Not your fault at all.”
She smiled again, although this time it was a little unsure, as if now that she had me she wasn’t certain she wanted me. It’s a look I’ve seen a lot.
“Okay,” I said. “Tell me everything you can think of about where old Mel might be.”
I pulled a lined white pad closer, picked up a pencil, and listened.
--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
- ASIN : B002W3BU02
- Publisher : Dell; Reissue edition (November 11, 2009)
- Publication date : November 11, 2009
- Language : English
- File size : 2152 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 226 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #65,882 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from the United States
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Lets talk limits, being a human is all about limits, your IQ, your height, how long you will live, there seems to be an upward limit to what a human is capable of and that includes how many first rate books one person can write. The number of classic texts one author is capable of creating is open to debate but in my reading I have not yet run into an author that has written more than ten truly first rate full length novels and that includes Robert B. Parker, a human just like the rest of us. The effects of having to produce a fresh episode with the same characters every 12 months for decades on end seems to encourage formulaic plots and phoned in manuscripts. Back to the Spencer oeuvre- while I have read every Spenser Parker wrote I soon found the non-Spencer books just did not work for me, I was spoiled and knew it. I didn’t really stop to think about how good the individual entries were, the glow of fandom had me just assuming all of them were first rate. Then, years ago, reading the Parker release for that year, Hugger Mugger (#27/2000), where Spencer spent day after day sitting on a porch somewhere in Georgia and calling it investigating I found myself dozing off, terminally bored. I shook it off but the worm of doubt continued to eat away at my belief in the sanctity of every Spencer episode being hallowed ground. By the time Parker died in 2010 I was burned on the series. The post Parker ghost writers after a mildly promising start only ended up throwing the final spadefuls of dirt on the coffin. Or so I thought, a few years later as I was discarding my core paper book collection and replacing it with digital I grabbed some Spencer entries and found they were fresher after the break and I decided I would read the entire series from start to finish. I found I had to struggle through some while others were fresh and powerful but less than halfway through Parker’s 39-41 Spencer novels (count varies, why is a can of worms best left for another time) I was ready to scream from too many entries that did not do Parker justice or keep me awake. What I discovered was that for me Parker’s early but not the very first stuff tended to be his best. Here is the list of what I consider his timeless works:
Looking for Rachel Wallace (#6/1980), Early Autumn( #7/1980), A Savage Place (#8/1981), A Widening Gyre (#10/1983), Valediction (#11/1984), A Catskill Eagle (#12/1985), Small Vices (#24/1997), Rough Weather (#36/2008) with an honorable mention for the last numbered entry in the series, Sixkill (#40/2011).
That’s it for what I consider Parker’s best, they all have earned their high spots in my Kindle’s rereads collection.
The boy's mother, on the other hand, is earning her PhD in picking up and sleeping with strange men. This sub-plot has been inserted into the book for no good reason, other than to demonstrate she's a lousy mother.
There are, weirdly, quite overt homo-erotic overtones running through Spenser's relationship with the boy. Maybe this was assumed to be natural when the book was written. Today some would call this "grooming". I don't think Parker intended this at the time the book was written; I'll admit it's a bit unfair to bring today's views on sexuality into a book that is 50 years old.
Spenser, of course, with the aid of Hawk dispenses with the bad guys, gets dirt on the dad to blackmail him into supporting Paul's aspirations to become a ballet dancer. Well, Ok. At the end of the book we find Spenser and Paul, back in the woods, finishing the cabin and resuming their male bonding. "Autumn is coming," says Spenser. To which I can only add, Thank God for that.
Compelling storyline of a teenager caught between his warring and uncaring parents. Realistic procedures, actions and reactions. Believable characters with distinct personalities. Memorable and thought-provoking dialogue.
I will re-read this story and always look forward to works, including those by other authors, in the Spenser series.
Top reviews from other countries
That said, the book is curiously episodic. Circumstances lead Spenser to take on responsibility for a weedy 15-year-old. In turning the boy into an autonomous adult, Spenser teaches him how to build a cabin in the woods. This occupies a long central section with much carpentry, weight-lifting and boxing detail that gosa a long way to establishing the tough but sentimental private eye of future books.
If not quite echt-Parker, Early Autumn points the way.