I was reading a rather grim novel about a young boy who was accidentally killed during a church service by snake-handling evangelical Christians in North Carolina and said to myself, “For heaven’s sake, it’s Christmas. You should be reading joyous Christmas stories – ho, ho, ho, and mistletoe and presents for pretty girls (as Lucy would say) – at least these few days before Christmas.”
Hence, I put aside my somber story (which I will likely review next week), and set out to enjoy Christmas with two of my very favorite detectives – Walt Longmire, sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming; and the irreverent Boston-detective-with-only-one-name Spenser.
Walt Longmire is a gruff man, born and reared in fictional Absaroka County in Wyoming, just south of the Montana border. It seems to always be cold and blizzarding in Absaroka County, though that probably just makes for exciting reading. The good sheriff always seems to be caught in blizzards, which add to the books’ suspense. His wife is dead before the first novel begins, and he continually grieves this loss. He has one daughter who is a lawyer in Philadelphia. Christmas in Absaroka County is actually a series of four stories in which the sheriff experiences the good in Christmas. He witnesses the goodness in others and he gives hope and joy to strangers. It is a quick read and it was fun to imagine the holidays in this cold northern place.
Silent Night: A Spenser Holiday Novel, is, to my knowledge, the only Spenser Christmas story. The late Robert B. Parker wrote very many books (some 39 Spenser novels alone and many others in different detective series). He passed away several years ago, and others have taken up where he left off, with Parker’s family’s blessing. It is debatable whether or not the new books are as good as Parker’s books, but that’s a blog for another time. Parker was writing this particular novel when he died, and with his wife’s permission, it was completed by Parker’s literary agent Helen Brann.
Parker has a very distinctive writing style. His sentences are sharp and crisp. His protagonists are always absolutely honest and generous and good, wrapped in the façade of irreverence. Spenser is as tough as they come, but loves his girlfriend Susan Silverman with fierce gentleness. He cooks wonderful meals and experiences Boston in a way that makes the reader wish they were drinking a martini right along with him.
Because Parker has such a unique writing style and his characters are so well-designed, I think his books are hard to copy. As such, I am always comparing his writing to the writing of those who have taken up where he left off, and never too favorably. Still, I’m happy the stories are being continued as I would mourn the loss of Spenser and the others.
All this is to say that I enjoyed this Spenser Christmas novel very much, but I can clearly tell that it wasn’t written by Parker. Still, it provides the reader with a different way of getting to the importance of the real meaning of Christmas.