Let's get this settled right away: Sunny Randall is nothing like Spenser. True, she's a private eye in Boston with good connections to the cops, and she also knows a lot of bad guys. And yes, she happens to have a trusty sidekick named Spike, and a close friend who could easily be related to Susan Silverman, (Spenser's long-term companion). Oh, did I mention the cute dog? Aside from that, though, there's absolutely no similarity between this new series from Robert B. Parker and his long-running Spenser books. Just because the case Sunny is working on--finding a missing 15-year-old girl who has run away from her very rich parents--sounds similar to the Spenser favorite Thin Air doesn't mean Parker is repeating himself here. Think of it as more like a homage, the kind of thing the author took on when he agreed to finish Raymond Chandler's Poodle Springs. Only in this case it's a homage to himself--but what the hell.
Written specifically with Parker's good friend actress Helen Hunt in mind, Family Honor is all in good fun. At one point, a no-nonsense nun looks down at Sunny's bull terrier, who is lying on her back begging for a tummy rub. "What's wrong with this dog?" Sister said. "It is a dog, isn't it?"
Parker is so good that with one hand tied behind his back he can create characters that are more memorable than most writers can even when pounding away with both fists. In just a few short pages, he tells us all about Sunny's career as a painter--and about the complicated relationship between her cool policeman father and her irritating pseudo-feminist mother. Parker even makes a direct dig at Spenser (who, before turning to private investigating, had a short and fairly unsuccessful career in the boxing world). When the runaway girl questions Sunny's ability to protect her from dangerous criminals--"you're a girl like me, for crissake, what are you going to do?"--Sunny replies, "It would be nice if I weighed two hundred pounds and used to be a boxer. But I'm not, so we find other ways." Exactly. --Dick Adler