Robert B. Parker’s sixth Sunny Randall mystery novel is one of his most introspective yet. The hook is very well set, opening up with Sunny and her retired father going over a cold case that he never quite solved while he was with the Boston Police Department. Phil, her father, was troubled by the case for several years before he retired. Nicknamed the Spare Change Killer because he left spare change – usually a nickel, dime, and quarter – at each murder scene, Spare Change hasn’t struck in almost twenty years.
No one knows what has brought Spare Change out of retirement, or why he or she started killing all those years ago. As lead homicide investigator from the initial investigation, Phil Randall is brought back on to consult. Martin Quirk, longtime permanent fixture of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, holds down a serious cameo role in the book and once again shows that Parker’s world is not as divergent as readers might believe.
The theme of this novel, and several of Parker’s books do have themes that are often repeated with different twists, centers on family relationships and how those family relationships affect and change the individuals within them. Susan Silverman returns as Sunny’s counselor and often serves as a foil for both Sunny’s personal growth.
The pace of the story is quick and eventful. Bodies fall quickly, and the police react almost hopelessly. In a round-up at one of the latest murder scenes, Quirk and his people get a list of names of people who happen to be in the neighborhood passing by at the time the body was discovered. Then they begin a painstaking and grueling interview process that Sunny and Phil take part in.
Almost immediately Sunny identifies a man she believes is the culprit. His name is Bob Johnson and he’s an innocuous man who has no prior convictions or seemingly any reason for killing anyone. Yet he stands out to Sunny because he is flirtatious, chatty, and too arrogant while taking part in the interview. Quirk and her father aren’t as quick about making that decision. They want more information.