For some time, the Spenser novels have been exploring the subtle psychology of who Spenser is and how he defines himself in terms of other people. For many action novels purists, these stories have been sheer tedium. For those who like some depth to go with their action, the novels have been a pleasant development in the series.
If you like your action clean, dialogue to be sparsely to the point, and simple "good guy stops the bad guys" plots, skip this novel. You will hate it.
If you love books and movies like Chinatown, The Maltese Falcon, and Casablanca, this book will delight you.
If you read Small Vices a few years ago, this book will seem like Through the Looking Glass compared to Alice in Wonderland. This time Hawk finds himself with life-threatening injuries and he has to decide how to deal with that. Hawk wants to continue to be Hawk so he has to revenge himself in a courageous way. That turns out to be a problem because the bad guys aren't afraid to die and don't take him seriously. In addition, Hawk has accumulated a karmic debt to a youngster who has lost his family. How can Hawk, the solitary sidekick, do that?
As usual, the book is told through Spenser's eyes so the book is very much about what Spenser feels are his obligations to Hawk. At the same time, we see Hawk more clearly than in most books where he is mostly a brooding presence when not wiping out the bad guys single-handed. Future books in the series will benefit from these increased dimensions to Hawk's character.
One of the best parts of the book is that Susan finds herself drawn to give advice to Hawk and Spenser about how to deal with Hawk's problems.
The plot itself is rewardingly complex. Hawk and Spenser have to do a lot of thinking in addition to their usual kicking of the hornets' nests until some hornets come out.
Many will be disappointed in the ending. For me, it worked. Not all books have to end with a bang to be enjoyable.
If the time I spend reading a novel is an indication of how much I like it, than Robert B. Parker's novels are always in the upper five.
I find it unfortunate that he can't write as fast as I read. I love every single one of his books. He never disappointed me. Not even, when he chose another protagonist.
I love them all.
Unfortunately it takes me just a day to read one of his novels and 'COLD SERVICE' didn't last longer.
Good thing he established the head of police in Paradise, so he can go on writing to the same dedicated audience, when Spencer gets to old to knock someone out. (I guess he can't revive him like he did PEARL).