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I love mysteries, and I have been missing Boston – tonight can we talk about mysteries that are set in Boston? Do you have a favorite book from the Spenser series by Robert B. Parker? Other series or stand-alone stories that you like, set in Boston?
How do you feel about books where the locale plays a prominent role? Are there other places besides Boston where other mysteries play out on a regular basis?
I’ve never heard of the book whose cover is featured above. Anyone familiar with the author?
Well, San Francisco fog practically invites skulking and dark doings …
Never heard of this guy. Always enjoyed George Higgins’s The Friends of Eddie Coyle. Also Neal Stephenson wrote a fun eco-mystery years ago called Zodiac set in Boston.
Not familiar with the author. I am a fan of Dennis Lehane’s Kenzie and Gennaro series. They are private investigators in south Boston. A Drink Before the War is the first in the series.
There’s also Hank Phillippi Ryan’s Jane Ryland books. Jane is a disgraced tv news reporter who falls back on the world of print journalism. There’s five in the series.
@bbleh: Is SanFransisco foggy?
Dennis Lehane is the master of Boston-based mysteries: Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, The Given Day, … Not only are the stories riveting, the character development is excellent. He is one of my favorites. He has a new one out, Small Mercies. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to do so soon.
@Auntie Anne: Kenzie and Gennaro are really good. Grim, but good.
@WaterGirl: not so much anymore.
Lehane has a new one out, set in Southie against the backdrop of the 1974 anti-busing riots. It’s in my queue, right behind the latest Leaphorn/Chee book which I’m currently reading.
@Craig: But it used to be? Why did that change?
There’s always The Dante Club.
@Burnspbesq: Two things.
One, the book set in Southie in 1974 sounds really interesting. When you get to it, please let us know what you think of it, on one of the threads.
Second, are there new Leaphorn/Chee books? I thought that series ended 10 or more years ago. Perhaps I have a lot of catching up to do?
All of the Parker series—Spenser, Jesse Stone, and Sunny Randall—have gotten pretty formulaic, but it’s a formula that works in the hands of a writer as talented as Mike Lupica.
Eddie Coyle was Boston, eh? Enjoyed the movie, but never read that or any other mystery-type book that was set there, nor have I ever actually been there, though come to think of it I might have noticed the local culture around Eddie. There are three movies I like that are set in Boston and use the location in some way: Mystery Street, a good noir-era police procedural with Ricardo Montalban, and from 1968 both The Boston Strangler (Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda) and The Thomas Crown Affair (Fay Dunaway and Steve McQueen). The latter uses the surroundings in part to tell things about the characters, especially Thomas Crown. In general, those old, tight streets make for some great compositions.
Hillerman’s daughter Anne took over after his death, and moved the story in a lot of interesting directions. The latest one is “The Way of the Bear.”
@Burnspbesq: So someone else apparently picked up after we lost Robert B. Parker. Where have I been?
@Spanish Moss: oooh – I hadn’t seen that there was a new one. Putting it on my list . . . Thanks for the news!
@WaterGirl: The “Golden Gate” — the gap in the coast mountain range that is the entrance to the Bay — is the only such break for many many miles in both directions. That basically makes it the “A/C vent” for the entire Bay area and Sacramento valley, much of which gets very hot very quickly in the summer, and of course hot air rises. Meanwhile, the Pacific is pretty damn cold, which makes the ocean air cold. So all the moisture (such as there is) condenses, and the cold air and fog just POURS through during the summer, and it’s pretty damn miserable.
My guess about reduced levels would be ocean warming near the coast. And some of it may be due to the drought, although I’m not sure of the mechanism. IIRC when I was there during the drought of the late 80s / early 90s, the fog was less.
(And no, Mark Twain did not say “the coldest winter ….” But the sweatshirt vendors do a brisk business with the tourists who think they’ve come to Sunny California.)
@Burnspbesq: I had no idea! You don’t happen to know the first one she wrote, or the year? Seems I have a lot of catching up to do.
I really enjoy the Tana French Dublin Murder Squad books. Not Boston, obvs, but same kind of grittiness, crappy weather, heavy accent. ;)
Have you seen The Town? I really liked it. Blake Lively was perfect.
@Spanish Moss: I read another book, years ago, called Small Mercies. I guess you can re-use titles!
@WaterGirl: Anne Hillerman has continued the series:
1. Spider Woman’s Daughter (2013)
2. Rock with Wings (2015)
3. Song of the Lion (2017)
4. Cave of Bones (2018)
5. The Tale Teller (2019)
6. Stargazer (2021)
7. The Sacred Bridge (2022)
8. The Way of the Bear (2023
I enjoyed The Spider Woman’s daughter, but haven’t read any further.
Looks like your summer reading is locked and loaded.
@Scout211: Thank you!
Hmm, there must have been a reason you didn’t read any further?
@Burnspbesq: Thank you!
@WaterGirl: Possible explanation.
@Omnes Omnibus: LOL. Literally.
I liked The Friends of Eddie Coyle and Higgins’ books generally. Don’t know much about Boston but locale can be so important. Holmes’ London , Morse’s Oxford, Marlowe’s Los Angeles are characters in their own right.
Admittedly not Holmes in London but Dartmoor is wonderfully creepy in The Hound of the Baskervilles
TBH, I’m not much of a mystery fan. We read one of Hillerman’s earlier books in the series years ago in my book group, so I did read one from the original series. I did not like it at all.
The Anne Hillerman one was also a book group book, but it was much more interesting to me. Maybe because the focus was a bit more on the relationships? Whatever the difference was, I was pleasantly surprised.
But mysteries are just not my favorite genre.
[email protected]: Never even heard of it, but will look into it.
First Kill by Michael Kronenwetter is set in a fictional town in Central Wisconsin, but much of it is recognizably my hometown. Not a bad mystery and very good on local color.
I’ve really enjoyed Anne’s take on the Leaphorn/Chee world. One thing that she’s done is turn Bernie Manuelito into a more central character (she was in pretty much a supporting role in Tony’s books). Depictions of Bernie’s interactions with her family have deepened the books, in my opinion, without losing the mystery aspects.
I also second the endorsement of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, although she seems to have stopped the series at 6 books. The first two in the series were combined and dramatized a couple years ago by (I think ) BBC, and I thought it was excellent. There don’t seem to be any plans to follow up with that, though.
Jeremiah Healy wrote a series set in Boston; his detective was IIRC John Francis Cuddy, a lawyer turned private detective for reasons I no longer recall. And William Tapply wrote a series about a Boston lawyer, Brady Coyne. Both were enjoyable; “get from the library” enjoyable rather than “race to bookstore the instant it’s published” level. Will check out the Peter Colt books.
I always had a softspot for the Gregory MacDonald series about Xavier Flynn. Same guy who wrote the Fletch series, but from the professional cop side. He got cut from the recent Confess, Fletch movie with Jon Hamm, but I’d pay to see the books filmed.
@Omnes Omnibus: No clowns, I presume.
@mawado: No book called The Buck Stops Here?
@WaterGirl: bad tech bro invasion. But really, just climate change. It still gets foggy, but nothing like 30 years ago.
@WaterGirl: No, but there is a stop at the Culver’s on Bridge St. in Wausau. It’s right by the Pick n Save just on the west side of the river.
Aha! I see there’s one of those darn versioning issues, there being three, one of which doesn’t seem to be on offer. Naturally that one is the one with the same ending as the novel.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@WaterGirl: Tony Hillerman is dead, but I guess they have someone continuing the series. Same with Robert B Parker’s Spenser series.
Mr. Bemused Senior
Fog City is a nickname for San Francisco. There’s even a Wikipedia entry. The link is to an Exploratorium video.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
I have never read any of the books, but the TV show Rizzoli and Isles is set in Boston and was based on a book series
Getting back into Dave Brubeck
@WaterGirl: Interesting. I don’t know the rules but it seems like you can. I tried looking up other books with the same name, and I see a Small Mercies by Eddie Joyce:
Is that the one you read, and did you like it? It sounds pretty good…
Ceci n est pas mon nym
@Burnspbesq: Different Parker characters have been farmed out to different authors. Ace Atkins has the Spenser character and I find I like both Spenser and his side characters (particularly Hawk) a lot better in Atkins’ hands than in Parker’s.
Another Boston detective is Carlotta Carlyle, written by Linda Barnes. I thought there were only a few of those, written in the 90s, but I just googled and found out the series did continue into the 2000s. Looks like there’s 16 altogether.
Sara Paretsky does pretty well with Chicago. Ruth rendell used to base novels around certain sections or features of London. Those are cool.
Nope, yet a different Small Mercies. I am trying to think of the author’s name.
It was Small Changes by Marge Piercy. oops
@A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan): I’ve read a few of those, by Tess Garritsen, but the plots were dumb and implausible, so I gave up.
@zhena gogolia: Loved Sarah Paretsky, in part because I grew up there. Probably enjoy Boston books because it’s a special place for me.
@WaterGirl: Small Mercies, Small Changes… small difference, right? 🙂
Ceci n est pas mon nym
For a really different location-based detective series, I recommend the trilogy by Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W Michael Gear, set in the US southwest… 1000 years ago. The characters are Anasazi.
Edit: Been too long since I read those. I’d forgotten that parts of the later two books take place in the modern world.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: I second the recommendation of Linda Barnes’ Carlotta Carlyle books.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: I guess you don’t recognize a lot of local haunts in that one! :-)
Not to self-promote, but the second book in the TJ Wilde series is set in Boston. I spent a lot of time (hey, was that ever a burden, LOL) researching locations. :-)
In Banacek, George Peppard played Thomas Banacek, Boston-based private investigator who solves seemingly impossible thefts. In general, the series was shot on the Universal Studios backlot, though location scenes were filmed around Los Angeles in areas that could pass for Boston. Banacek was well received by television critics, and as a result was picked up for a third season. However, before the third season could start, Peppard quit the show to prevent his ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley from receiving a larger percentage of his earnings as part of their divorce settlement. Banacek has a clear resemblance to the title character of the Steve McQueen movie The Thomas Crown Affair, particularly in his attitude towards women and authority. The house used for exterior shots of Thomas Crown’s home in Boston was used for Banacek’s home in the series.
@WaterGirl: As much as I like Spenser as a character, I haven’t had the heart to read any of the non-Parker novels. I think I read all of the Parker novels.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: interesting! I usually avoid a series after it has been taken over by another after the death of the original author, but I will give Ace Atkins a try. The books by Parker himself had changed and gotten simpler. Shorter chapters, more banter dialog between Parker and Hawk, less plot.
@TaMara: Gee, I hope you never have a book set in Hawaii, because the research there would also be a terrible burden!
@Tehanu: I used to read those, had forgotten all about them.
@hilts: I liked Banacek. That’s a lot of spite, though. They couldn’t have delayed filming for a season until the divorce was over?
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@smith: the TV show was pretty lightweight so I never bothered with the books and it sounds like I never will now! Thanks for the opinion
@VOR: I read all of the Robert B. Parker novels, and I think I had just one of his books left to read when he died. Then I read the whole series again in order.
Maybe not high literature, but I liked them.
@WaterGirl: I read a bunch of Spensers back in the day but can’t think of any other Boston ones. I don’t really like Boston 😀
What Have The Romans Ever Done for Us?
It’s not a mystery and not entirely set in Boston, but Patrick O’Brian’s The Fortune of War features some mystery adjacent cloak and dagger espionage work in 1812 era Boston.
I love that we are discussing books today.
I hope it’s not too early to switch to another genre, but I just finished reading Nathan Harris’ debut novel, The Sweetness of Water. What a beautifully written novel. It is just so good.
(The [Reply} button isn’t working for me)
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: and Tehanu – Let me third that recommendation. Linda Barnes is the first author I thought of for “Boston detective.” I love Barnes’ books because they’re nicely individual and idiosyncratic. Also a lot of interesting secondary characters (who don’t stay secondary, come to think of it.)
@zhena gogolia: What don’t you like? Everything?
Ceci n est pas mon nym
@WaterGirl: They’re a guilty pleasure for both of us. Lots of eye-rolling about the depiction of longtime girlfriend Susan Silverman. Is she Parker’s ideal woman? Doesn’t want to marry or move in, never eats, always perfectly dressed and made up, always ready for sex.
We came to the Spenser series by way of the TV show with Robert Urich and Avery Brooks. I was reading about that show recently and had forgotten that Susan was dropped from the series after a season or two. They just couldn’t make her interesting I guess.
I always admired Brooks for his ability to somewhat humanize the ridiculous character of Hawk.
@Scout211: Not too early! These posts often drift, which is totally fine!
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@WaterGirl: they are really easy and smooth reading and just flow along. I like them a lot, especially the banter between the ongoing macho characters, although Susan Silverman gets on my nerves.
I just googled “classic novels set in Boston” and the top result was Make Way for Ducklings lol. A true classic!
@zhena gogolia: Is this a Yale thing?
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: Somehow that makes me think of the series I am watching now. Classic line from today’s episode: “Thank you for fucking me.”
@A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan): I loved the ducklings!
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
@WaterGirl: yes, it is a true classic. There is a duckling statue in the gardens I think.
It’s always fun watching a series set around where you live.
Alan Plater’s Beiderbecke Affair/Tapes/Connection were mysteries set in Leeds (where I lived) in the 80s. I enjoyed them, and the books, and Plater’s local knowledge made it really come alive.
A lot of TV filming is done in Leeds but it’s rare that the show is actually set there.
@WaterGirl: the drivers. The tunnel. Maybe that’s gone now, haven’t been there in a long time. Callahan tunnel
@Omnes Omnibus: no. I don’t give a shit about Harvard
The Diplomat? I love the fact that the dialogue can be both vulgar and erudite in the same conversation.
I used to love the Spenser books. Then, like Ceci n est pas mon nym, I got tired of the Ineffable Perfection of Susan. I don’t care how wonderful and perfect Parker’s RL wife was, Susan was a MarySue by proxy IMO.
And then he tied off the April Kyle cycle in Hundred Dollar Baby in a way that I found highly offensive, contrary to the previous character development, and – I hate to say it – artistically lazy.
So that was two strikes, and I didn’t wait around for a third. I haven’t read a Spenser since Hundred Dollar Baby.
@zhena gogolia: I don’t know. That sounds very Yale to me. :P
@Omnes Omnibus: Me, too!
Not a book, not really a mystery but “The Verdict” is something I always record and watch later at my leisure.
@Omnes Omnibus: yeah that’s what they say …
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: I enjoyed the Carlotta books very much.
What about when it’s laughable wrong because a bunch of New York (or LA) assclowns have never been to Chicago? :)
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: Was just going to recommend Linda Barnes – I loved the Carlotta Carlyle series. I remember an interview/article where she was asked why she switched series from her original protagonist, who was an amateur investigator, to Carlyle, who was a professional PI. Her view was that the only plausible reason for an amateur to investigate murder involves some sort of personal connection, and she felt her protagonist needed to reflect the impact of the loss. But the losses would accumulate as the series went along, and it got really depressing for her to write, so she switched to a protagonist who was a professional. I always thought that was an interesting perspective.
Can’t think of books/fiction based in Boston.
I love Frost’s poetry. He lived in my neck of the woods so reading his poetry now has a special resonance I can relate to what he is talking about from lived experience.
I will give any movie/book work of fiction that has Mumbai as a setting has my special attention. There are quite a few movies where the city is a character.
I can name even name most of the streets and the landmarks that you see in the background
Ken Bruen’s dark Jack Taylor series set in Galway. Character. mood, and place all shine.
@dexwood: One of the few shows where an overcoat is actually a character.
@zhena gogolia: Callahan tunnel is a nightmare. But Boston is a good port of entry for international flights. The wait at customs (and immigration when I was not a citizen) are minimal.
@WaterGirl: I like the CIA lady.
@Omnes Omnibus: In the books definitely. It has a history. Didn’t like the show. Didn’t hate it.
@cope: Yes, that has great Boston atmosphere.
@Omnes Omnibus: I wasn’t an undergraduate there,* so I don’t count. And I don’t partake of all their Eli bullshit.
*As you well know, I went to a superior institution.
Steve in the ATL
Haven’t read the thread but I assume that the biggest mystery about Boston is how the hell people listen to that accent all day!
@schrodingers_cat: Yeah, my friend who travels a lot always goes from Logan.
@zhena gogolia: Great cast. IMDB tells me Bruce Willis had a bit part. I’ll have to check it out next viewing.
@mrmoshpotato: Good point, I’ve noticed that more when the idiots are trying to show a profession/ work environment etc
eg anything* to do with computer/programming/security is normally risible
*except HAL, HAL’s ace
Mike in NC
Higgins was very good. They filmed some scenes of that movie near where I was working at the time (Dedham, MA). I rented it not too long ago and it still holds up.
@zhena gogolia: My two favorite characters are the Foreign Secretary’s sister and Ronnie, the young woman who wears bow ties and is always around and always competent.
@WaterGirl: I think it’s called The Buck Passes Flynn
It’s been a while. I’ll have to get the audio books and reread. Lot’s of shelving this week.
Mike in NC
Good God, I lived through that stuff and it was extremely unpleasant. There were some terrible politicians stirring that mess. They were MAGA before Trump.
@Steve in the ATL: ha!
@Omnes Omnibus: @zhena gogolia:
I like so many of the characters.
Funny, just been watching an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe called Foreign Bodies.
It’s set in Whitby & Scarborough and it’s really accurate in the use of locations, accents etc. Dalziel stays in a hotel I’ve stayed in and even that’s accurate
Cathie from Canada
James Lee Burke wrote the Robicheaux series set in New Orleans.
Thomas Perry wrote the Jane Whitefield series set in upstate New York and the Seneca communities there.
Michael Connelly’s novels are all set in Los Angeles. In particular the Mickey Haller Lincoln Lawyer series, who practices in his car as he drives the freeways from courtroom to courtroom across LA.
The Valentine & Lovelace mysteries of Nathan Aldyne.
Not that you asked, WG, but if I were starting the Spenser oevre, it’d be with the earliest novels (the first was The Godwulf Manuscript, circa 1973 or ’74, followed by Early Autumn, Valediction, Mortal Stakes, etc.). I wish I could convey what a breath of fresh air those novels were in the detective/ mystery genre when they were first published, utterly unlike anything that had been written up to that time: a private dick who literally quoted Spenser, wore the spiffiest suits of the day, but could shoot and box and bench press more than his own weight. As you know, Boston is absolutely a central character. Whoever owns his “brand” has farmed out each of his genres to different sets of writers since his death, and I haven’t read any; they may be fine, but I prefer remembering the sense of discovery I felt reading his earlier stuff (before a certain formulaic quality set in).
You didn’t quite ask about non-Boston “place” mysteries, but another writer whose sense of place is a character in his novels is K. C. Constantine (The Man Who Liked Slow Tomatoes, Always a Body to Trade, The Rocksburg Railroad Murders), whose locus is Rocksburg PA, with its shut-down coal mines and rusting factories and a chief of police, Mario Balzic, who navigates his gritty, working-class town and its people with a certain weary familiarity.
Sense of place? Martin Cruz Smith’s novels about Moscow (I know, I know, Russia) detective Arkady Renko; and the Baltimore novels of George Pellecanos (who later co-wrote and co-produced The Wire with David Simon).
The Cruz Smith stuff is still in print, the Constantine and Pellecanos mysteries might take some looking, but worth it.
Finally, there is at least one accompanying map of the Four Corners part of the US where Hillerman set his novels; most of his place names were real, and you can find them on the AAA Indian Country map (indispensable in the glovebox of tribal police cruisers), or a Hillerman-branded map (not listing the Amazon link because fuck Bezos) but I took a car trip around the area and used both maps with great delight.
@Mr. Prosser: Aw, you beat me to “Zodiac”. (The name does not refer to astrology or to the infamous serial killer, but to a type of powered rubber raft that the protagonist travels around Boston’s waterways on. He notes at one point that you can only really sense how compact Boston is if you can travel freely by water.)
Friends of Eddie Coyle is still the best of them, says this Boston-area resident of 50 years. Somewhere I can’t find right now there is a photo of the movie’s star, Robert Mitchum, taken in the Kentucky Tavern, the saloon on Mass. Ave. (long defunct) where the movie’s bar scenes were filmed. He’s being given a warm welcome by real gangster Whitey Bulger.
@cope: Really? I don’t remember that. Lindsay Crouse is very good. And James Mason of course. And that Newman guy ain’t bad.
@Omnes Omnibus: I haven’t seen the foreign secretary’s sister yet. We just finished the “lambs” one. Tonight we’re going to try Tom Jones, so we’ll get back to it in a couple of days.
Michael McKean is very good, and his chief of staff Nana Mensah.
ETA: I see Rupert Vansittart is going to show up. He’s always good.
@mawado: Oh, hell yes, how could I forget Xavier Francis Flynn?!
There’s a later entry in the Flynn books: Skyler’s World. It does involve a mystery, but not a murder; and it’s mostly about the people around Flynn.
@zhena gogolia: Vansittart is great in it.
My wife just decided to never again (if possible) book an international return flight such that we entered the US somewhere other than Boston and had to make a connecting flight home.
The last straw was our trip home from Barcelona: we were supposed to have something like a 3- or 4-hour layover in Newark that would have made it easy to get through customs, retrieve our bags, transfer to a domestic terminal and check in for the second flight (which is what we would have had to do), but flight delays shrank this to a nearly impossible interval. And then it was moot anyway because the connecting flight got cancelled because of bad weather, along with half of the flights in the eastern US, dumping their passengers into every transportation and hotel system. We ended up just renting a car to get home.
Yes the Lehane books are good. Sets a mood well. And the mysteries I like are all about mood. I’m going to scroll through this before I say why I don’t much like the Spencer series. IIRC the first couple were OK, but . . .
I’m going to add to the praise for Linda Barne’s Carlotta Carlyle mysteries. Her PI also drove a taxi, both because PI work could slow down, and also because it is a good way to quietly surveil a neighborhood without drawing attention. One of the fun things about the books was that she would include the back road short cuts the taxi drivers use. Including one that went a block away from my Brookline apartment. It was a great shortcut that amazed friends. Always looked for Carlotta’s routes after that.
If you’re in the mood for a historical, Matthew Pearl’s The Dante Club is set during the Civil War with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and several other poets forming a club that ends up having to solve some murders when they realize the murderer is reenacting scenes from Dante’s Inferno. I remember enjoying it, but that the ending was a bit over the top. I now have a general rule against decorative corpses, but don’t remember the particulars here.
An author I’m looking to start reading is Emma Lathen, a pseudonym for two Boston area writers, Mary Jane Latsis and Martha Henissart. One was an economist and the other an attorney, the pseudonym was to protect their professional careers. Most of their novels involved a Wall Street banker and generally had financial crimes as motives and involved industries they had done work for. They were active from the 1960s to 1990s. Unfortunately, their heirs seem to have had a falling out and there have been no reprints. However, as they were local, there luckily seem to be quite a few library copies.
I really miss Kate’s Mystery Books. Used to run into Robert Parker there, as well as other authors. He built the bookshelves. The local MWA chapter met there and I used to attend their meetings. Great guest speakers.
@Steve in the ATL: There is a saying that every word has two pronunciations, the correct one, and how they say it in Boston.
@schrodingers_cat: Logan is also great because it is the first airport international flights get in reach of on their trip across the Atlantic. Therefore when the East Coast gets hit with snow, Logan has to stay open until all the incoming flights from across the ocean can land. So they have a really good snow clearing capacity and a lot of experience with bad weather. You get routed to another city far less often than happens with other East Coast airports.
Also, when they did the airport redesign, they made the MBTA free into the city from Logan. So arriving passengers can just board the Silver Line buses and go anywhere on the subway without having to worry about having the right currency or paying for a fare card.
Anyone read any of Eliot Pattison’s whodunnits set in colonial America?
Another one set in the same period is The Constable’s Tale by Donald Smith.
Yes Paretsky does do well w Chicago. And also while the plots get more topical the detective doesn’t get too fancy for the genre.
Per Tom Lehrer:
“H is for my alma mater, Harvard
C is Central, next stop on the line
K is for the kozy Kendall Station
C is Charles, that overlooks the brine
P is Park Street, busy Boston center
W is Washington, you see
Put them all together, they spell HCKC-PW
Which is just about what Boston means to me!”
@Feathers: From way back when: Learn to talk Boston:
@Feathers: I used to despise using Logan and flew out of Manchester, which is closer to our home, as frequently as I could. Manchester is still more convenient for us, certainly cheaper to park at and faster to move through.
But I think flights and passenger volume are disappearing from Manchester (and TF Green) because Logan has greatly expanded and cleaned up its act. It’s certainly easier to check in and get through security there than at most big airports in the US, in part because it’s so decentralized over the various terminals.
One of the more interesting Beantown linguist perversions is moving a word’s final “R” to a word ending in “A” (or ending with the short-A/schwa sound).
For example, “Donna, come here!” becomes “Donner, come heah!”
Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren series.
@SFAW: That “intrusive R” is a characteristic of many non-rhotic accents (accents that don’t pronounce the R where you’d think it would be), including English ones.
(page mentions my single favorite example, the champagne supernover in the sky)
Charlie on the M.T.A.
JFK talking about missiles in Cuber, also too.
@NotMax: Skinhead on the MBTA
Back when I was a legal investigator I took to reading relatively hard boiled mysteries – maybe a couple thousand in all. My favorites were in rough order, Chandler, Hammett, Ross McDonald, and several others whose names don’t come to mind right now (this was 35-40 yeast ago). There are several serieses that to my mind keep the flame going – the aforementioned Paretsky, Lehane, Joe Gores, Crumley, Estleman, Joseph Hansen, Greenleaf and especially Walter Mosley. (Marcia Muller was very good until she got bored with her defense investigator main character working mostly for poor people and made her detective too fancy.) Lots of Bay Area detectives on this list.
I tried Parker but could just not get past a couple of things. One was that he by my lights misread what was attractive in Chandler’s character Marlow and Hammett’s various characters. He got that they were cynical people covering over some sort of moral center, but misunderstood what it was to have a moral center. As I recall he was a lit prof who liked existentialism. So the thought that moral centers could have just any substantive content so long as it comprised a moral code. But this is substantively a bad idea, and also literary mistake. Moral stuff matters because morality is about stuff that in fact matters – not because you could write a set of rules to embody it. So he in effect kept the cynicism and lost the attractive part of morality. Or so I thought when I was reading the books and I got turned off after reading perhaps half a dozen. (I also read interviews with the guy and they iirc said explicitly what I am attributing to him as his theory of what makes for a good noir hero.)
The other thing that bothered me, and it is related, is the trope of having an amoral partner (wasn’t this guys name Hawk?) who is somehow loyal to the hero, so that the amoral partner does the worst stuff and also is the superhero that manages to save the day by doing bad stuff no human should be skilled at doing, all without tarnishing our hero. This trope is by no means only used by Parker. There is another writer who I used to read more of who has the same thing going — Robert Crais comes to mind.
Anyway, I know this is very opinionated and also a bit dated. But this was an obsession with me at one point – reading mysteries in a very narrow genre. And this thread lets me spout off about something I once thought a lot about.
@Feathers: oh, Emma Lathen was a BIG favorite of mine, and I still have a few of the paperbacks. John Putnam Thatcher, Miss Corsa – all the characters were really well done. And usually, there was at least one scene in each book that had me just rolling with laughter.
@NotMax: I thought that was gonna happen to me in Barcelona the week before last when I transferred from the Catalonian regional rail to the Barcelona Metro and was unexpectedly presented with a fare gate that required me to scan my ticket for the trip I’d just taken, which I assumed I wouldn’t need any more. Fortunately I did find the pocket it was in.
I will have to look up some of the Boston based books.
A couple of series I enjoyed that leaned heavily into locale are Ian Rankin’s Rebus books, which are set in Edinburgh, and Denise Mina’s various series, which are set in Glasgow.
@NotMax: My spouse was originally from the SF Bay Area but grew up in New Hampshire among several other places, so she ended up with an accent that is mostly California rhotic but also sometimes has intrusive R. “Put the pizzar on”.
@Mike in NC:
There was a guy in my undergrad class who was a Townie. One year he disappeared for a week right before finals. We later found out that he went home to throw rocks at school buses.
Anonymous At Work
The true mystery of Boston. “What happened to the letter ‘r’?” [Asks a Texan who rarely speaks the letter ‘g’.]
@zhena gogolia: We have a bunch MORE tunnels now. But the Callahan is still there.
@Ceci n est pas mon nym: I agree about the Susan Silverman character. I just found it annoying that she only eats tiny bites and smiles mysteriously. What’s so compelling about her?
COZI TV has been showing “Banacek”, which is set in stock-footage Boston, where Peppard has to find a stolen ocean liner or something, often with the assistance of Joanna Pettet or Anitra Ford.
A series I enjoyed that very much evoked the locale was Dorothy Simpson’s Inspector Thanet series set in Kent.
One thing I particularly liked was she avoided giving Thanet an anguished back story/substance abuse problem. He’s a standard person who has standard person problems not an angst ridden tortured soul. A clever touch was that the character aged in line with the publication dates 1980 to 1999 and the personal problems and anxieties he has mirror real life events eg in the early 80s he’s concerned his son may be caught up in the glue sniffing epidemic that hit England at the time. He’s roughly my age ( a little older) and it was almost nostalgic for me when reading them
@Anonymous At Work
Now almost wishing for audio to hear “gangplank” or “Goggomobil” spoken in Texan.
For those who can’t stand the accent:. https://youtu.be/zWVcIn7Q4Cc
A. Phoebe Atwood Taylor is my favorite mystery writer of the Boston area. She wrote the Asey Mayo series of 24 books featuring the Codfish Sherlock who mostly solved cases on Cape Cod. Writing as Alice Tilton (which was done to prevent people thinking she was a hack writer), her Leonidas Witherall Mysteries (8 in total) are set in the Boston suburb of Dalton mostly.
These mysteries were written in 1930s and 40s and set at that time. The Asey Mayo books are light, humorous reading while the Witherall books are generally very funny. Probably not everybody’s cup of tea, but definitely mine.
@mvr: @Gretchen: @Ceci n est pas mon nym: I think at some point Parker got a little bored with some of his characters, or ran out of ways to deepen their characterizations, OR maybe they were just totems of a sort all along, standing in for values like “a force for good that achieves it by extreme means” or “a liberated woman who likes her men tough AND sensitive” or whatever. Possibly the obligation to crank out product got to him; I remember the earliest Spensers were published by Houghton Mifflin in relatively slim, 220-page editions; by the time he was published by Putnam’s, they were using heavier paper, narrower page margins, lots of white space, and bulking his books out to a couple inches thick and to doorstop dimensions, the better to charge premium prices. Still, for his time, he was a trailblazer (although today’s readers probably wouldn’t get that, at all).
I’ve read most of the Spenser series from Parker, but just didn’t have the heart to read more after he passed. They got more formulaic and less intriguing with later books, but the earlier ones were quite good and Parker did a great job making Boston a real character in the books. That series is also notable to me for having multiple good adaptations to TV (I’m very fond of the Urich series in particular, but the Mantegna ones are also quite enjoyable, even if he’s the least believable Irishman in TV history…). The Netflix movie with Wahlberg very much misses the point of the books, IMHO.
I enjoyed Parker’s Sunny Randall series, overall and was really hoping the adaptation with Helen Hunt might work out. Could have been fun.
I like it when mystery writers really use the city their detective is in as another character. Paretsky is great at this, as is Laura Lippman, whose Tess Monaghan novels I’ve really enjoyed. She really got Baltimore, IMHO.
Probably a dead thread, but Neal Stephenson set two of his earlier books in Boston : Zodiac, about A Greenpeace-like activist in Boston Harbor is even a mystery (toxic waste being dumped in the Mystic River, I think).
And then there’s The Big U, which features a great scene involving a radio station, an organ concert, and the resonant frequency of dorm hallways. Also, a cult worshiping the Citgo sign.
And doesn’t Charles Stross start his Merchant Princes series in Cambridge?
Catfishing on Catnet is a delightful YA novel involving an AI that was born in Cambridge, and concludes there.
Probably a dead thread now, but I didn’t see anyone mention Rick Boyer’s Doc Adams series. From mid-80s to mid 90s. Unlikely protagonist in a setting of good food and too much alcohol. Moscow Metal & Penny Ferry are my favorites, I think.
And, like previous posters, by the time Robert Parker was done, Susan Silverman’s teensy bites of food and the two of them continually proclaiming their autonomy was too much.
@Feathers: Emma Lathen’s books about banker-detective John Putnam Thatcher are available on Kindle. So are the books about Congressman-detective Ben Safford; the Safford books were originally under the pseudonym R.B. Dominic but now they appear under the Lathen name
The really weird thing is that someone has resurrected the Emma Lathen pen name for mysteries solved by Thatcher’s daughter Elizabeth, who works in the bank’s IT department. Amazon customer reviews of the new books are scathing.