For more than 30 books, author Robert B. Parker has been entertaining fans with tales of wisecracking Boston P.I. Spenser and his hipper-than-thou sidekick, Hawk. The latest addition to the series, Cold Service, is a veritable Hawk-fest, with Spenser in an uncharacteristic role as second-among-equals. As the story opens, Hawk lies in a hospital bed, recuperating from three well-placed gunshot wounds to the back that would have killed a lesser man. He had been hired to protect a bookie from the Ukrainian mob, and he had failed miserably: the bookie, his wife and two of his three children lay dead, and Hawk faces months of painful therapy. Let it be noted that Hawk does not suffer failure particularly well; he has had very little opportunity for practice over the years. He will not rest until he has visited justice (revenge?) on the mobsters, and if a few people have to die, so be it. That, of course, does not sit well with Spenser's psychologist girlfriend, Susan; despite her affection for Hawk, she deplores the violence that defines much of the relationship between the two men. Spenser must walk the fine line between helping his friend and retaining his hold on compassion and humanity, without which he will lose the love of his life. Cold Service presents Parker at the top of his game, delivering fast-paced action, staccato dialogue, and depths of friendship hitherto unexplored in the series.

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