Reviews for Double Play


Booklist Monthly Selections - # 2 March 2004
The problem with this new novel from the creator of hard-boiled uber-hero Spenser is simple: this is a Spenser novel with new names. Burke is the Spenser clone. He's back from World War II after sustaining severe wounds. After his bride leaves him, he loses his emotional center. After his boxing career fizzles, he hires himself out as a tough guy. (Sound familiar Spenser fans?) A Mob guy refers Burke to Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who needs someone to protect Jackie Robinson, who is about to become baseball's first black player. Burke and Robinson swap lots of good-natured racial barbs (a la Spenser and Hawk), while Burke confronts the local Mob with the help of a gunsel named Cash (Vince Haller by another name). Interspersed among the mayhem are somewhat disconcerting (why here?) recollections (assumed to be Parker's) of trips to the ballpark in the forties. So is this book bad? No, it's quite good actually, but Parker is at a point in his career (he got there a long time ago) where great athletes sometimes find themselves: 50 more homers for Barry Bonds? Not as many as last year! Despite the similarities to his Spenser series, Parker's characterizations of Burke and Robinson will resonate with readers because, as always, Parker connects with the romantic tough guy residing in so many souls. ((Reviewed March 15, 2004)) Copyright 2004 Booklist Reviews.

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Kirkus Reviews 2004 March #2
Ebbetts Field, 1947. Robinson's penciled in at first, a guy named Burke has his back, Parker benches Spenser (Back Story, 2000, etc.), and we get a gem of a book.Ex-marine Joseph Burke was shot up so badly at Guadalcanal that it took almost a year before he could walk from one end of a minuscule apartment to the other. And while he was bed-ridden his wife betrayed and deserted him, leaving wounds on top of wounds. But Burke is endlessly tough, physically fearless, and superbly trained to kill-the ideal candidate, Brooklyn Dodgers boss Branch Rickey decides, for a job he has in mind. He's just brought Jackie Robinson up from Montreal, he tells Burke, and plans to use him to break major-league baseball's color line, once thought impregnable. Rickey wants Burke to be Robinson's bodyguard, to protect him from the inevitable horde of vicious types who'll be ready to kill each and every time a black man appears in a Dodgers uniform. Can you do it? Rickey asks. "I got through Guadalcanal," Burke replies laconically. Robinson and Burke both treat speech as if it were an endangered species, and yet almost from the first they communicate as if they were brothers. Proud, inner-directed Robinson and embittered, closed-off Burke learn to trust and depend on each other. They need to, because it's just as Rickey foretold: the woods are full of predators, some of them as good with a gun as Burke is. When Ebbetts Field becomes a killing field and Burke makes Robinson's cause inextricably his own, the bodyguard experiences what he least expected: the sweetness of redemption.The talk is electric, the pacing breakneck, the cast colorful and empathic. After a couple of so-so efforts, Parker flat out nails it here.Agent: Helen Brann/Helen Brann Agency Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2004 January #1
Parker departs from Spenser and company to craft this account of Jackie Robinson's bodyguard. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

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Library Journal Reviews 2004 May #2
In this standalone historical from Parker, it is 1947, and the Brooklyn Dodgers have signed Jackie Robinson at first base. While a young Bobby Parker (that is, the author) avidly follows the national pastime, Joseph Burke, a shell-shocked World War II veteran, is working as a bodyguard in New York City. Emotionally stunted, Joseph lives in a world devoid of feeling-until he becomes Robinson's bodyguard. His confrontations with violent bigots as well as his own demons make up the main story line of Parker's baseball homage (besides the author and Jackie Robinson, it features real-life people like Branch Rickey, the Dodgers' then general manager). Bobby's life, family, and love of baseball are separate from that thread but just as compelling. The creator of the popular Spenser series, Parker knows how to tell a story and does his usual masterly job here; it will prove exciting even to those who are indifferent to baseball. Recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Fred M. Gervat, formerly with Concordia Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2004 March #5
Set in 1947, Parker's superb new novel imagines what it was like for Jackie Robinson, and more centrally for Robinson's (fictional) bodyguard, to see the color barrier broken in Major League baseball.This isn't Parker's first foray outside the mystery genre, though he remains best known for his Spenser PI series (this year's Bad Business, etc.); in 2001 he dramatized Wyatt Earp in Gunman's Rhapsody, and earlier he excelled with Perchance to Dream, Wilderness and Love and Glory. In an unusual gambit, however, this time he mixes his storytelling with his firsthand reminiscences (in chapters titled "Bobby") of growing up as a devoted Dodgers fan, a move that adds resonance and a sense of wonder to the taut narrative. The fiction, told in the third person, focuses on Joseph Burke, a WWII vet grievously wounded physically and emotionally by combat and its aftermath. Burke is a hired gun who allows himself no feelings, but when he signs on with Dodger owner Branch Rickey to protect Robinson from racist violence during the ballplayer's rookie season, he comes to respect, then love, the proud, controversial player. Burke also falls for Lauren, a self-destructive society girl with mob connections whom he worked for before Robinson, and it's from Lauren's troubles and the threat of violence surrounding Robinson that the novel's hard, smart action arises. Burke is a tough guy, and the narrative not set around baseball fields takes place in the white and black underworlds as Burke plays various gangsters against one another to protect both Lauren and Robinson. Parker, always a clean writer, has never written so spare and tight a book; this should be required reading for all aspiring storytellers. Parker fans will recognize with joy many of the author's lifelong themes (primarily, honor and the redemptive power of love), and in the Burke/Robinson dynamic, echoes of Spenser/Hawk (the PI's black colleague). Here they will treasure the very essence of Parker in a masterful recreation of a turbulent era that's not only a great and gripping crime novel but also one of the most evocative baseball novels ever written. (May 24) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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