1. Welcome to BookAndReader!

    We LOVE books and hope you'll join us in sharing your favorites and experiences along with your love of reading with our community. Registering for our site is free and easy, just CLICK HERE!

    Already a member and forgot your password? Click here.

Review of The Godwulf Manuscript by Robert Parker

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by plf515, Sep 21, 2016.

  1. plf515

    plf515 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    The Spenser series by Robert B. Parker has always been a favorite of mine and now I am re-reading them in order. The first one is The Godwulf Manuscript. First published in 1973, this book introduces us to Spenser, tough guy, wise ass, detective, cook ....

    In this one, Spenser is hired to find a missing manuscript that was stolen from a college library. But that leads to investigations of drug selling, left wing cults, crazed professors ... and a few murders.

    There are many pleasures to the Spenser series. First, I like Parker's style of mystery: There is one plot, there are no huge conspiracies, no multi-generational sagas. Bad guys do bad things. Spenser finds them, usually after some violence, some humor and so on.

    Another pleasure is Spenser himself. Yes, he's big and he's strong and he's tough. But he quotes poetry, he cooks, he listens to music, he's knowledgeable about many things. He's interesting.

    (the review is from my blog).
     
  2. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,953
    Likes Received:
    90
    Thanks for reminding me of the Spencer series by Robert B. Parker. I've seen references to it for years but never read it. Since I love mysteries with academic settings and lost manuscripts and such, I'm going to try The Godwulf Manuscript.
     
  3. plf515

    plf515 New Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2016
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    0
    This should be right up your alley. A couple notes though: 1) It's pretty old and a bit dated. That's not a bad thing, but it makes for some interesting things. 2) As the first in the series (and, I think, Parker's first published work) it's not quite as polished as his later books. But it's still good.
     
  4. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,953
    Likes Received:
    90
    In some ways I like the older (mid-twentieth century) mysteries best, before the days of so much dependence on forensic evidence, computers, and hardware, when detection depended on observation, interrogation skills, and knowledge of human nature. I still periododically reread Dell Shannon's Luis Mendoza series and Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe books. I'm looking forward to The Godwulf Manuscript.
     
    plf515 likes this.
  5. readingomnivore

    readingomnivore Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2010
    Messages:
    4,953
    Likes Received:
    90
    STILLBORN ARMADILLOS is the first book in Nick Russell’s police procedural series featuring Deputy Sheriff John Lee Quarrels of Somerton County, Florida. The title come from his grandfather’s belief that all armadillos are born dead beside the road, since Paw Paw has never seen a live one there. It was published in e-book format in 2016.

    Crime is quiet in Somerton County, with Sheriff D. W. Swindle, John Lee’s father-in-law engaged in his usual skirmishing with Chief Deputy Flag (aka “Fig”) Newton, his wife’s brother who wants to run against him in the next election. John Lee is at a road construction site to slow traffic down when the crew uncovers three skeletons, each skull with a bullet hole in it. While the deputies excavate the skeletons, someone takes pot shots at them and their vehicles. The skeletons have been in the ground at least fifty but less than a hundred years; the only evidence uncovered is a small metal disk with a hole in it and a number punched into it. So two mysteries--the skeletons and their murder, and who shot at the deputies? Progress on both cases is slow, despite two more shootings, the last killing Deputy Ray Ray Watkins. John Lee learns that the metal disk had been used in one of the local turpentine camps run by Somerton Lumber Company until the mid-twentieth century, where conditions made slavery look benign. Can a decades-old multiple murder possibly be connected with the sniper and Ray Ray’s death?

    The main story lines in STILLBORN ARMADILLOS is drawn out for too long. Just when it seems something is about to develop, Russell cuts away to John Lee’s sex life and / or his long-running feud with Fig, or to turf wars between D. W. and Fig. The insubordination shown by John Lee to Fig and by Fig to D. W. is unlikely to be tolerated in a working department. It also seems unlikely that the director of the State Crime Lab in Tallahassee would have to be told to try for DNA samples from the skeletons. Russell throws in another murder after Ray Ray’s death that’s expected but gratuitous. Once he enters the story, the identity of the modern killer is obvious.

    As often the case in first novels in a series, characters far exceed the number necessary to carry the story. Few are much developed. John Lee is in some ways an attractive protagonist--personable, modern-thinking, professional, dedicated to justice--but he’s got a problem with his pants. He can’t keep his zippers closed. His wife Emily, D. W.’s older daughter, left him eight months before to live with a lesbian lover in Pensacola, only she comes back to Somerton regularly to have sex with John Lee. He’s in a “friends with benefits” relationship with Beth Ann, Emily’s younger sister, who says she always got Emily’s hand-me-downs and leftovers, so why not John Lee? In the meantime, he hits on Shania James, head of the State Crime Lab, and engages in flirtation with Deputy Madison (“Maddy”) Westfall, who’d had a crush on ht im in high school. Showing the action through his eyes does not make him more appealing.

    I’m also put off by Russell’s use of Southern stereotypes. D. W. Swindle and Flag Newton are two halves of the negative image of a rural Southern sheriff of the early twentieth century. D. W. is not trained, elected because his grandfather and his father before him were sheriffs of Somerton County, concerned only with being re-elected and thus heavily motivated by the media. (D. W. seems based on Sheriff Buford T. Justice from the film series Smokey and the Bandit.) He does, however, back John Lee and his investigation and express his confused feelings about his daughters’ behavior. Flag Newton is the hard-liner, by the book except when he wants to go beyond the letter of the law to take or to punish a criminal. He shows no softening of his hatred of John Lee or his contempt for DW.

    A second stereotype that bothers me the incest theme. Maddy refers to John Lee’s relationship with Beth Ann and Emily as incestuous more than once. The affair seems to be public knowledge, and John Lee laughs the comment off. Russell’s use must be intentional be cause he includes the relationship when it serves no purpose in the mystery plot. A third stereotype is the nepotism prevalent in the Sheriff’s department.

    Sense of place is well established but mostly in the attitudes of John Lee and Somerton County residents. A few references and vignettes from Somerton County history help, but physical description is scant. Despite allusions to contemporary forensics, the period feels years before the present. Russell uses word choice and occasional idioms to establish Southern speech patterns. Somehow, it just doesn’t feel authentic.

    STILLBORN ARMADILLOS has some interesting characters and thus potential, enough that I may try the next book. (C)
     

Share This Page