Perhaps no one is more well known or respected as a modern day master of crime fiction than Robert B. Parker. Like Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hammett, Parker has mastered the art of the hardboiled detective novel. He is best known for his tough but sensitive Boston private investigator Spenser. He has written over 20 Spenser novels, which spawned the 1980s television show Spenser: For Hire. With his latest book, Family Honor, Parker introduces an entirely new character a female P.

I. named Sunny Randall.

Sunny is a complex character: a former cop, college graduate, divorcee, and aspiring painter. Sunny is hired by a wealthy family to discreetly locate their daughter, who has run away. Tracking down the runaway Millicent does not prove to be difficult, but deciding what to do with her does. It appears that Millie's problems are far greater than running away, and Sunny is now caught in the middle.

Unsure of what to do with Millie, Sunny finds herself acting as both bodyguard and surrogate mother, and occasionally as a moving target. It seems that a certain group of mobsters is also looking for Millie, and they have no problem taking out one female detective to get her. Fortunately Sunny is not without resources. Her ex-husband, Richie, is himself the son of a mobster, and her best friend, Spike, is an ominously dangerous gay man. With their help, Sunny delves into the mystery of why everyone wants Millie, all the while trying to teach her how to be a strong, independent woman.

Family Honor introduces what may be an ongoing series. Parker has created a number of engaging and well-thought-out characters in Sunny, Richie, and Spike. His writing style is short and to the point with very little extraneous exposition. And as with his other novels, the true joy of reading Parker is the stellar dialog. He writes the way people speak. There are no long speeches, no overly emotional outbursts; he writes it like it is. So intelligent and cutting are Sunny's comments and come-backs, you'll find yourself wishing you were as quick on your feet.

Family Honor is an enjoyable book that focuses more on the characters and their development than it does on the mystery surrounding them. While the mystery is interesting, it serves merely as a catalyst to propel the characters through the story. You may begin Family Honor for the story line, but you'll finish it for Sunny Randall.

Wes Breazeale grew up in Robert B. Parker's turf and now does research for a college in Oregon.

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