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Spare Change is loaded with suspense and humor

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By Pat Wellington

Parker’s Spenser in a skirt is divorced, thirtyish Sunny Randall, a former cop turned PI and daughter of the much venerated Phil Randall, recently called out of retirement to help with a resurfaced serial killer tagged Spare Change because he always leaves coins on or near his victims after shooting them once in the head. It’s been twenty years since Phil, leading the old task force, exhausted all his leads.

But now, daughter Sunny is helping with the case, which continues to baffle because the victims seem entirely random — men, women, blacks, Asians — all ages and types. As the investigation drones on with a roundup of 30 or more possible suspects, none seems promising until one day, Sunny looks up at the latest suspect and something inside her says – “Bingo.”

Then, at about ten past three, something interesting happened. A slim, balding man came in and sat down. What hair he had was cut very short. He wore an expensive-looking beige tee, tan slacks, and pale tan loafers with no socks. His watch was a Rolex. His slacks were carefully pressed.

Everything he was wearing seemed new and fresh. When he came into the room, he walked to the interview officer with his hand out.

Sunny studies him carefully, noting that when he crosses his legs he does so with great concern for preserving the knifelike crease in his pants.

 He is, in fact, too neat. And at every stage of the questioning he seems to be enjoying himself, even playful.

He is showing off in a Look at me, Look at me fashion, leading Sunny to believe that he would show off even more to a female investigator.

Amid protests that she’s guided only by flimsy intuition, gutsy Sunny stands her ground and wins.

At each meeting with the suspect in cafes or a bar where hefty friend Spike looks out for her, Bob Johnson is flirty and confident while Sunny experiences a chilling, visceral distrust permeating her being – though she tries hard to conceal it.

While assiduously following every crumb of the faint trail Johnson has left behind, Sunny still finds time to walk her dog Rosie, lunch with the ex-husband she still loves, have drinks with her wacky friend Julie, dinners with her slightly dysfunctional family, and sessions with her therapist.

Sunny’s mark tantalizes with his elusiveness but his pursuers are not giving up. Hard evidence has to nail down her gut feeling that Johnson is the serial killer, whatever his motive, and she is determined to uncover it.

Parker’s novels continue to be engaging quick reads loaded with suspense and humor and characters like Spenser, Sunny Randall, and Jessie Stone who are always welcomed back in novel after novel.

Pat Wellington is a retired English professor, freelance writer, and faculty member of On Top of the World’s Master the Possibilities, who shares her passion for books with others.