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    Review of MELANCHOLY BABY by Robert B. Parker


    G. P. Putnam's Sons, September 2004

    College student Sarah Markham suspects her parents are not her biological parents and that they've been hiding a secret from her. When they deny it, she hires private detective Sunny Randall to find out. Sunny doesn't like the parents much, Sunny has problems liking anybody. Still, since they claim to be Sarah's biological parents, it seems odd that they won't agree to submit to a simple DNA test that would verify their claims. When Sunny pushes, Sarah is beaten up in her dorm room and warned to stop the investigation. All of a sudden, a simple case of confirming biological parentage becomes something dangerous--maybe even deadly.

    Relying on the help of assorted cops, ex-cops, super-tough gay bartenders, a mob-connected ex-husband, and super-psychologist Susan Silverman, Sunny tries to get to the bottom of the case, protect her client from another beating, and to deal with her own issues at the same time. And Sunny does have issues.

    Author Robert B. Parker (see more reviews of novels by Parker) has a distinct style all his own. He tells his stories with a heavy dose of dialogue, keeping the reader moving quickly from page to page. Sunny Randall is much like Parker's other detectives--tough, witty, unwilling to back down, opinionated, and quick with a quip.

    Although MELANCHOLY BABY is an enjoyable read, it lacks some of the emotional punch of the early Spenser novels. At one point, I found myself wondering if I'd read this book before (I hadn't, but it is strongly similar to some of Parker's other stories). Also, I found the psychology moments to be distractions rather than necessary to the story (and Sunny's belief that her ex-husband loves her more than his current wife is creepy). Every author has issues that he/she works through in his/her novels and Parker is no exception. The stories would be more enjoyable, though, if he used a bit less of a blunt object.

    Bottom line--MELANCHOLY BABY is a quick enjoyable read. The mystery moves along and hangs together. Sunny Randall is an interesting character and Parker's dialogue is skillful--hardboiled detective at its best. Despite some reservations, I'm happy to recommend this book.

    Three Stars

    Reviewed 1/11/05

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