The Godwulf Manuscript is the first Spenser novel written by Robert B. Parker. It was originally published in 1973. Many know this character from the Spenser: For Hire television series in the 80’s where Spenser was played by Robert Urich.
Followed by: God Save The Child
Set in the early 1970s, this novel serves as the introduction to Spenser, a private investigator in Boston. Spenser is hired by a university to recover a stolen manuscript, a medieval document of great historical and literary importance. At first, the case doesn’t involve any violence. But eventually, someone ends up dead and Spenser is left to pick up the pieces. Even after being “fired” from finding the manuscript, Spenser continues to unravel a series of seemingly unrelated clues to discover the murderer. Terry Orchard, a university student, is the prime suspect in the murder. However, Spenser believes her to be innocent and is hired by her parents to prove so.
This is not the first time I’ve read this book as you can tell from my scan of the cover. There aren’t very many authors that can get me to re-read their stuff but Robert B. Parker happens to be one of them. I belong to a few Spenser/Parker discussion groups and one thing that comes up often is how Spenser really doesn’t age. This is obviously a literary device that Parker uses to ensure that he can continue to write his characters. That said there are a couple of things that really date this book (not that I have a problem with that because it IS over 30 years old).
First off, the ransom amount isn’t nearly enough by today’s standards – “only” $100,000 I believe. Second, Spenser takes a young lady for lunch which consists of a sandwich & a beer… he leaves $5 and that covers lunch and tip. Finally, one of Parker’s greatest traits (description of small details) gives him away. As he describes people’s dress and mannerisms the book is obviously set in the 70’s. Again not a big deal. Just something worth noting because the aging issue comes up from time to time.
We are introduced to some great recurring characters in this novel including Brenda Loring, Lt. Martin Quirk, Sgt. Frank Belson & Joe Broz. This is the only Spenser novel not to include Susan Silverman in some way. As she’s become such a defining character for Spenser it’s weird to see him without her.
I don’t feel that I can give a subjective recommendation of anything Parker writes because I love his work. I’ll say this. If you’re a Spenser fan you owe it to yourself to see where it all began. Pick up a copy of The Godwulf Manuscript on Amazon today. You’ll be glad you did.