Wednesday, 30 December 2020

ROBERT B PARKER'S GRUDGE MATCH BY MIKE LUPICA

Grudge Match is Mike Lupica’s second novel continuing Robert B Parker’s Sunny Randall series, and it is a large step forward from the first, Blood Feud, which I reviewed not so long ago.I liked that book’s tight and complicated plotting (if it’s resolution depended on a deus ex machina kind of good fortune) and Lupica handled the Sunny/Richie relationship with considerable sensitivity. He was also good when Sunny was interacting with characters already established by Parker’s own first six novels. Where it bogged down was in Sunny’s ping-ponging between characters and set-ups, which sometimes gave way to a kind of Boston travelogue as if Lupica, a Noo Yawka, was trying to establish his Bosstown chops.

Grudge Match is also tightly plotted. Tony Marcus is a Boston gangster inherited from the Parker oeuvre, and at the end of Blood Feud Sunny put one over on him. Now Marcus’ girlfriend Lisa, who’s also his business partner, has disappeared, and figures Sunny owes him one, and he wants Sunny to find her. Sunny takes the job, with obvious equivocation; after all Marcus runs hookers as one of his entreprenurial activities, but when someone she questions about Lisa is murdered, Sunny finds herself in for more than she might have bargained.

This plot moves on a couple of parallel lines, and though a couple of the twists are predictable, Lupica is very good at retwisting the second one, to make it something different than what it looked to be. Sunny’s own conflicts are amplified by her ambiguous position vis a vis the lawless Marcus, especially since Richie is now dealing with the return of his ex-wife and their son from Britain; the boy’s presence changes the nature of his and Sunny’s considerable relationship dilemmas. And again, Lupica handles this well: always a problem because as I pointed out in my previous review, Sunny is to some extent a female Spenser. It’s a considerable upgrade on his first effort, and I’d say Lupica is already proving the best of the Parker pastichers, short of Ace Atkins, so far. Worth a read if you miss even a sense of Parker.

Grudge Match by Mike Lupica, No Exit Press, £9.99, ISBN 9780857304025

note: this review will also appear at Crime Time (www.crimetime.co.uk)

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