Spare Change by Robert B. Parker

Sonny Randall is no longer a cop. I think she’s a private investigator but that’s not really clear. What is clear is that she has some kind of creepy crush on her dad, she has a weird sibling rivalry thing going on with her mother and she’s trying to talk her ex-husband into dating her again – because that seemed to work out well last time.

The Spare Change killer is back, after haunting Chicago three decades earlier by shooting random people and leaving a handful of spare change tossed across his victims. Sonny’s father led the investigation that never went anywhere. Now he’s being called back in to consult and he’s asked Sonny to come with him.

Sonny uses her female intuition to immediately discern who the killer is with absolute certainty. She then goes on dates with him but only to the bar where her enormous friend named Spike works.

That’s pretty much the whole story. There are little anecdotes with Sonny gloating about how much more time she gets to spend with her father than her mother does, being embarrassed by her family when they do pretty much anything, having awkward conversations with her recently remarried ex-husband and beating up her best friend’s dead-beat boyfriend.

Then there’s a chapter where some things happen and they all go home.

Perhaps the most striking thing about this book is how lonely it feels. Even when Sonny is in the midst of people she supposedly loves she cynically analyzes every action they make. Her thoughts about others seem to drip with contempt for their petty little lives. It makes the book feel lonely, and depressed, like Sonny lives inside of a bubble where she is the only real person and everyone else is just an NPC in the world’s most mundane role playing game.

I think the biggest disappointment of the book was the mystery. It was only talked about on occasion and usually it was to reiterate the fact that Sonny knew the killer already and was just waiting for the rest of the world to figure it out. The rest of the book is just little scenes of Sonny, being the only character in a crowd of non-players.

I can’t really recommend this book. It was short, it was depressing – and not even in a good way.


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