Pastime


Pastime (1993)
by Robert B. Parker

I’m reading the Spenser novels in order. I skipped reviews on a bunch, but might as well start from here.

Paul Giacomin, who you might remember from Early Autumn, needs to find his mother. She’s missing without even a goodbye.

If you don’t remember the original novel, that’s okay. It’s roughly explained. Paul’s folks marriage ends in bitter divorce. The father hires thugs to kidnap the boy. The mother wants to keep Paul, but not out of love; out of spite. The mother hires Spenser to get the boy back. In the end, Spencer sees neither parent really wants Paul for Paul’s sake. So, he sort of adopts Paul, gives him a crash course in being a man, while encouraging him to be a dancer.

Paul has understandable issues with abandonment.

Of course, Spenser agrees to help Paul. They discover that the mother has hooked up with a mobster who has stolen money from the mob. Spenser has to keep the mob at bay while finding Paul’s mother. Mother is found. There’s a showdown with the mob. Spenser wins.

What’s different about Pastime is twofold. One, Spenser has a dog. This is a surprisingly large part of the story as Pearl, the dog, does many cute doglike things. The second difference is that we get Spenser backstory. He didn’t know his mother, was raised by father and uncles, went to war in Korea, had a first love, he likes cooking, drinking coffee and eating donuts. Of course, we get lots of loving interaction with Susan.

I once did a simple analysis of one episode of the TV show, Elementary. It was simple, not very scientific. I got a copy of all the dialogue in the script. Then I counted the number of lines devoted to the A-story vs. the B-story. The A-story is the main mystery, the whodunnit. The B-story is the character stuff, the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Turns out, the B-story is about 30% of the show. 70% is the main story,

It seemed like the ratio was reversed in Pastime.

Maybe Parker was trying to make up for so not giving backstory in the earlier (17) novels. I’m not sure. You’ll enjoy the story if you come into it with that understanding.

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