A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript has been stolen from a Boston university and a ransom demanded for its safe return. President Forbes decides to hire Spenser, former cop turned private eye, to find it. From such humble beginnings he soon finds himself involved in “organized crime, dope-pushing, theft, radical politics, adultery and murder”.
Spenser’s working practice is summed up in the following dialogue:
“Okay,” I said, “tell me about SCACE, then.”
Her face was less friendly now. “Why do you want to know about SCACE?”
“I won’t know till I’ve learned. That’s my line of work. I ask about things. And people don’t tell me anything so I ask about more things, and so on. Now and then things fall into place.”
The problem is that in this book, everything does fall into place. He’s pointed in a particular direction and from then on events follows step by step. Everything just falls into Spenser’s lap. There are no red herrings, no deductions, no detection and yet he has been classed as one of the 100 Greatest Literary Detectives. He’s a funny guy and good company but I won’t be keeping my eye out for him.