Chasing the Bear
Review: Robert B. Parker uses a present-day conversation between Spenser (a Boston private investigator who has appeared in some 36 novels thus far) and his ladyfriend Susan to introduce readers to his character as a teenager in Chasing the Bear, a non-mystery novel that nonetheless could serve as an introduction to a potential mystery series featuring the PI for young adults.
Spenser is living with his father and his mother's two brothers (his mother having passed away when he was very young) in some unnamed Rocky Mountain state (Denver seems to be the closest major city), where he learns about life and responsibility from the three men. Though employed as carpenters, each of the adult men is an accomplished boxer, using the sport to keep both body and mind in shape. Spenser not only learns how to fight, but also when to fight: some things are simply not important enough to fight over. How to know the difference? "Most people know what's right," Spenser's uncle says. It's also important to know when the odds are stacked against you, and the smart thing to do is not to fight at all, possibly the hardest lesson of all for Spenser to learn.
Adults who have read any of the Spenser books will likely appreciate Chasing the Bear more than the intended audience, young adults who in all likelihood have never read any of the series. Indeed, one of the best aspects of the book is that the author has written the book for an adult (albeit without excessive violence and coarse language). Just as Spenser's father and uncles never treated him like a kid, Parker doesn't treat the reader like one either. The stories Spenser relates to Susan demonstrate a progression from learning something on an abstract level to applying it in a real-life situation.
Parker's typically brisk pacing keeps the plot moving forward, and alternating chapters between Spenser in the present and Spenser in the past provides an interesting perspective to the story. Though one might have expected, or maybe hoped, that more of a mystery might have been presented here, Chasing the Bear is a terrific introduction to Spenser, for readers and fans of all ages.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of Chasing the Bear for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Chasing the Bear: Colorado
— ♦ —
Chasing the Bear by Robert B. Parker — A Young Spenser Novel
Publication Date: May 2009
List Price: $14.99