The Godwulf Manuscript – Robert B. Parker

The Godwulf Manuscript This is Robert B. Parker’s first Spenser novel. It isn’t one of those ‘who dunnit’ mysteries where the reader gathers clues within a barrel of red herrings and tries to figure out the identity of the guilty culprit before the detective narrates the mystery’s solution after the story’s climax. It’s also written in the first person narrative. We see the story unfold as Spenser sees it.

This is the first Spenser novel, the ‘pre-Susan’ Spenser. I really enjoyed this novel. The quote above shows that Spenser has enjoyed the pleasures of Mrs. Orchard and is now bedding Miss Orchard and although this may be questionable his persistence and perseverance to the case, and the cause of justice in this story, imbues Spenser with the mantle of the uncorrupted ‘White Knight’ in the mode of Raymond Chandler

Robert Parker makes a point of going to lengths to cloth his characters. Many authors, like Stephen King, as he says in his book On Writing, choose not to go into detail when it comes to clothing the character. As king says, he’s writing a story, not a j crew catalogue. There is a benefit of not going into that kind if detail, his book The Shining was written not long after this novel and thirty years later it doesn’t have the ‘period’ feel that Godwulf Manuscript has.
For instance in introduced us to Mr. Orchard Parker writes; “He wore a dark double-breasted blazer with a crest on the pocket, a thick white turtle neck sweater, grey flared slacks and black ankle boots with a lot of strap and buckle showing.” This level of descriptive detail is typical… even inconsequential characters strolling across this stage are wardrobed.

These very physical descriptions, as well as the description of the places where Spenser goes, mostly in and around Boston, give you a really sense of time and place. Like Dicken’ descriptions give his readers a sense of late nineteenth century London Parker gives you a sense of late nineteenth century Boston.

What starts out with the ‘keep it under wraps’ theft of a university manuscript which points to seventies student radicals soon leads to drug and mob influence on campus… we follow along with Spenser as lead begets lead, with the pace quickening as the climax approaches.

“Love me,” She said in a choked voice. “Make love to me, make me feel, make love to me, make me feel.” A fleeting part of my mind thought “Jesus, first the mother, then the daughter,” but the enduring part of my mind said, Yes, Yes, Yes, as I bore her back on to the bed and turned the covers back from her.