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Publisher's Summary

Everybody loves a winner, and the Rabbs are major league. Marty is the Red Sox star pitcher, Linda the loving wife. She loves everyone except the blackmailer out to wreck her life.

Is Marty throwing fast balls or throwing games? It doesn't take long for Spenser to link Marty's performance with Linda's past...or to find himself trapped between a crazed racketeer and an enforcer toting an M-16.

America's favorite pastime has suddenly become a very dangerous sport, and one wrong move means strike three, with Spenser out for good!

©1987 Robert B. Parker (P)2009 Random House

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 11-07-13

What a Man's Gotta Do

The Spenser books, particularly the early ones, are good, fast reads and very short by today's standards. Although technically book #3, "Mortal Stakes" (1975) is a good starting place for this classic series.

On the surface it's a simple story: the Boston Red Sox' manager suspects that their superstar may be throwing games as well as pitches (all Red Sox personnel in the book are entirely fictional). The manager hires PI Spenser to investigate the rumor. The trademark Parker descriptions of meals (heavy on the cholesterol), drinks (Labatt's Pale Ale, anyone?), clothes (lots of polyester), and local flavor (Boston's ambiance is captured nicely) are all there, as is Spenser's trademark repartee (which unfortunately doesn't always translate well to audio, especially since Michael Prichard is an OK but not spectacular reader).

Underneath a fast-moving plot involving blackmail and gambling, this novel builds the foundation for the Code of Spenser as the tough PI faces up to the physical, emotional, and spiritual conflicts inherent when "work is play for mortal stakes." At this point in the series he has not yet partnered with Hawk, the sociopath-with-integrity who plays such a large role in later books. Hit men like Vinnie and Chollo have not yet become Spenser's buddies and back-up. Cops Belson and Quirk, his stalwart links to law enforcement, are present, and the bonds of commitment between Spenser and his future soulmate Susan Silverman glimmer but are not yet forged.

Over 35 years and 30 novels (there are more than 30, but for me the books lose their lustre and originality somewhere after "Potshot," which was #28 or so), Robert B. Parker created an iconic character that in many ways (and despite many superficial differences) is the logical antecedent of Lee Child's Jack Reacher. Both "heroes" operate under individualistic codes of honor that in their world justify breaking rules and laws in the interests of eliminating evil, protecting the innocent, and righting wrongs. As the lines from Robert Frost that are the epigraph in "Mortal Stakes" sum it up, their deeds are done "for Heaven and the future's sakes." Spenser thinks about it a lot more than Reacher does, but they both wind up serving as judge, jury, and executioner more often than not.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Third Book in Series: Almost There

None of the characters are quite yet what they will be. And no Hawk yet.

But still, the story dealing with possible pro sports cheating is very good, and some stellar moments.

A ways to go yet until it will become what it needs to.

If you haven't yet started the series, this book might be better than the previous two to begin. But later books are even better.

Recommended

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Jane
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 08-02-13

Very enjoyable. Had some laughs.

Love the author’s wit.

In the beginning I wondered how Spenser would ever be able to investigate. Then I was pleased with things he did. I liked the way he surprised me with something about some pictures. I wondered how he would solve the problem with the blackmailers - and then I was pleased with his solution. A good mystery. Good detective. Love the few lines that made me chuckle.

I did not like Spenser sleeping with two different women. He met Susan in the previous book with a neat relationship. So why does he have sex with Brenda Loring early in this story and then Susan later? I suppose this appeals to some guys. For me? No.

The narrator Michael Prichard was very good.

This is book 3 in the Spenser series.

Genre: PI mystery

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Love the film noir detective style

The story was good. A little too predictable. I like the old style detective narrative like the classics; however he can get a little bogged down in some descriptions and commenting especially about extraneous details such as clothing. Doing it every once in awhile adds to the flavor, doing it every time can be tedious. Narrator does a good job of separating voices and has a pleasant voice.

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  • Gudrun
  • Fort Resolution, Northwest Territories, Canada
  • 05-02-16

The best one so far

This is my third book by Parker and he just keeps getting better, the characters have become deeper and fleshed out. The story had layers and I will read more of Parker.

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  • thomas
  • United States
  • 05-23-12

A MASTER AT THE TOP OF HIS FORM

I ENJOYED READING THE SPENSER SERIES WHEN I WAS A MUCH YOUNGER MAN, AND AM NOW REVISITING THE ENTIRE SERIES THROUGH AUDIBLE.COM, AND AM ENJOYING SPENSER ALL OVER AGAIN. MORTAL STAKES IS ROBERT PARKER WRITING AT HIS BEST. THE PLOT MOVES WITH ACTION, AND THE DIALOGUE IS LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY, ESPECIALLY IN THOSE SCENES BETWEEN SPENSER AND THE VILLIANS. THIS IS BY NO MEANS A WHO DUNNIT. BUT THEN, WHO DID IT WAS NEVER THE SPENSER SERIEA FORTE. RATHER THE EXPLORATION OF WHY PEOPLE COMMIT MURDER AND MAYHEM, AND THOSE EMOTIONS THAT DRIVE THEM, AND THE TOLL IT TAKES ON THOSE LEFT LIVING, AND HOW SPENSER DEALS WITH ALL THOSE THINGS. IT SOUNDS LIKE HEEDY STUFF, BUT PARKERS WRITING IS CONCISE AND BEAUTIFUL, AND HE SERVES EVERYTHING UP LIKE A TOP CHEF SERVES A DELISCOUS DINNER, MEANING ITS ALL EASY TO SWALLOW, AND YOU FEEL WELL SATIATED AFTERWARDS. MICHAEL PRICHARD AGAIN DOES A STELLAR JOB BRINGING PARKERS NARRATIVE TO LIFE.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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loved it

Story was great, funny humorous and action-packed. I thought the reading was very good! character development was very interesting.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful