Mortal Stakes (Spenser Series #3)

Mortal Stakes (Spenser Series #3)

by Robert B. Parker

Paperback(Mass Market Paperback - Reissue)

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Everybody loves a winner, and the Rabbs are major league. Marty is the Red Sox star pitcher, Linda the loving wife. She loves everyone except the blackmailer out to wreck her life. 

Is Marty throwing fast balls or throwing games? It doesn't take long for Spenser to link Marty's performance with Linda's past...or to find himself trapped between a crazed racketeer and an enforcer toting an M-16. 

America's favorite pastime has suddenly become a very dangerous sport, and one wrong move means strike three, with Spenser out for good!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440157588
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1987
Series: Spenser Series , #3
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 103,376
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 6.86(h) x 0.89(d)

About the Author

Robert B. Parker was the author of seventy books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, novels featuring Chief Jesse Stone, and the acclaimed Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch westerns, as well as the Sunny Randall novels. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, Parker died in January 2010.

Date of Birth:

September 17, 1932

Date of Death:

January 18, 2010

Place of Birth:

Springfield, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

Cambridge, Massachusetts


B.A. in English, Colby College, 1954; M.A., Ph. D. in English, Boston University, 1957, 1971

Read an Excerpt

It was summertime, and the living was easy for the Red Sox because Marty Rabb was throwing the ball past the New York Yankees in a style to which he’d become accustomed. I was there. In the skyview seats, drinking Miller High Life from a big paper cup, eating peanuts and having a very nice time. I wasn’t supposed to be having a nice time. I was supposed to be working. But now and then you can do both.
For serious looking at baseball there are few places better than Fenway Park. The stands are close to the playing field, the fences are a hopeful green, and the young men in their white uniforms are working on real grass, the authentic natural article; under the actual sky in the temperature as it really is. No Tartan Turf. No Astrodome. No air conditioning. Not too many pennants over the years, but no Texans either. Life is adjustment. And I loved the beer.
The best pitcher I ever saw was Sandy Koufax, and the next best was Marty Rabb. Rabb was left-handed like Koufax, but bigger, and he had a hard slider that waited for you to commit yourself before it broke. While I shelled the last peanut in the bag he laid the slider vigorously on Thurman Munson and the Yankees were out in the eighth. While the sides changed I went for another bag of peanuts and another beer.
The skyviews were originally built in 1946, when the Red Sox had won their next-to-last pennant and had to have additional press facilities for the World Series. They were built on the roof of the grandstand between first and third. Since the World Series was not an annual ritual in Boston the press facilities were converted to box seats. You reached them over boardwalks laid on the tar and gravel roof of the grandstand, and there was a booth up there for peanuts, beer, hot dogs, and programs and another for toilet facilities. All connected with boardwalks. Leisurely, no crowds. I got back to my seat just as the Sox were coming to bat and settled back with my feet up on the railing. Late June, sun, warmth, baseball, beer, and peanuts. Ah, wilderness. The only flaw was that the gun on my right hip kept digging into my back. I adjusted.
Looking at a ball game is like looking through a stereopticon. Everything seems heightened. The grass is greener. The uniform whites are brighter than they should be. Maybe it’s the containment. The narrowing of focus. On the other hand, maybe it’s the tendency to drink six or eight beers in the early innings. Whatever—Alex Montoya, the Red Sox center fielder, hit a home run in the last of the eighth. Rabb fell upon the Yankee hitters in the ninth like a cleaver upon a lamb chop, and the game was over.
It was a Wednesday, and the crowd was moderate. No pushing and trampling. I strolled on down past them under the stands to the lower level. Down there it was dark and littered. A hundred programs rolled and dropped on the floor. The guys in the concession booths were already rolling down the steel curtains that closed them off like a bunch of rolltop desks. There were a lot of fathers and kids going out. And a lot of old guys with short cigars and plowed Irish faces that seemed in no hurry to leave. Peanut shells crunched underfoot.
Out on Jersey Street I turned right. Next door to the park is an office building with an advance sale ticket office behind plate glass and a small door that says BOSTON AMERICAN LEAGUE BASEBALL CLUB. I went in. There was a flight of stairs, dark wood, the walls a pale green latex. At the top another door. Inside a foyer in the same green latex with a dark green carpet and a receptionist with stiff blue hair. I said to the receptionist, “My name is Spenser. To see Harold Erskine.” I tried to look like a short-relief prospect just in from Pawtucket. I don’t think I fooled her.
She said, “Do you have an appointment?”
I said, “Yes.”
She spoke into the intercom, listened to the answer, and said, “Go in.”
Harold Erskine’s office was small and plain. There were two green file cabinets side by side in a corner, a yellow deal desk opposite the door, a small conference table, two straight chairs, and a window that looked out on Brookline Ave. Erskine was as unpretentious as his office. He was a small plump man, bald on top. The gray that remained was cut close to his head. His face was round and red-cheeked, his hands pudgy. I’d read somewhere that he’d been a minor-league shortstop and hit .327 one year at Pueblo. That had been a while ago; now he looked like a defrocked Santa.
“Come in, Mr. Spenser, enjoy the game?”
“Yeah, thanks for the pass.” I sat in one of the straight chairs.
“My pleasure, Marty’s something else, isn’t he?”
I nodded. Erskine leaned back in his chair and cleaned the corners of his mouth with the thumb and forefinger of his left hand, drawing them together along his lower lip. “My attorney says I can trust you.”
I nodded again. I didn’t know his attorney.
Erskine rubbed his lip again. “Can I?”
“Depends on what you want to trust me to do.”
“Can you guarantee that what we say will be confidential, no matter what you decide?”
“Yes.” Erskine kept working on his lower lip. It looked clean enough to me.
“What did my lawyer tell you when he called?”
“He said you’d like to see me after today’s game and there’d be a pass waiting for me at the press entrance on Jersey Street if I wanted to watch the game first.”
“What do you charge?”
“A hundred a day and expenses. But I’m running a special this week; at no extra charge I teach you how to wave a blackjack.”
Erskine said, “I heard you were a wit.” I wasn’t sure he believed it.
“Your lawyer tell you that too?” I asked.
“Yes. He discussed you with a state police detective named Healy. I think Healy’s sister married my lawyer’s wife’s brother.”
“Well, hell, Erskine. You know all you really can know about me. The only way you can find out if you can trust me is to try it. I’m a licensed private detective. I’ve never been to jail. And I have an open, honest face. I’m willing to sit here and let you look at me for a while, I owe you for the free ball game, but eventually you’ll have to tell me what you want or ask me to leave.”
Erskine stared at me some more. His cheeks seemed a little redder, and he was beginning to develop callus tissue on his lower lip. He brought his left hand down flat on the top of the desk. “Okay,” he said. “You’re right. I got no choice.”
“It’s nice to be wanted,” I said.
“I want you to see if Marty Rabb’s got gambling connections.”
“Rabb,” I said. Snappy comebacks are one of my specialties.
“That’s right, Rabb. There’s a rumor, no, not even that, a whisper, a faint, pale hint, that Rabb might be shading a game now and then.”
“Marty Rabb?” I said. When I’ve got a good line, I like to stick with it.
“I know. It’s hard to believe. I don’t believe it, in fact. But it’s possible and it’s got to be checked. You know what even the rumor of a fix means to baseball.”
I nodded. “If you did have Rabb in your teacup, you could make a buck, couldn’t you?”
“Just hearing me say it made Erskine swallow hard. He leaned forward over the desk. “That’s right,” he said. “You can get good odds against the Sox anytime Marty pitches. If you could get that extra percentage by having Rabb on your end of the bet, you could make a lot of money.”
“He doesn’t lose much,” I said. “What was he last year, twenty-five and six?”
“Yeah, but when he does lose, you could make a bundle. And even if he doesn’t lose, what if you’ve got money bet on the biggest inning? Marty could ease up a little at the right time. We don’t score much. We’re all pitching and defense and speed. Marty wouldn’t have to give up many runs to lose, or many runs to make a big inning. If you bet right he wouldn’t have to do it very often.”
“Okay, I agree, it would be a wise investment for someone to get Rabb’s cooperation. But what makes you think someone has?”
“I don’t quite know. You hear things that don’t mean anything by themselves. You see stuff that doesn’t mean anything by itself. You know, Marty grooving one to Reggie Jackson at the wrong time. Could happen to anyone. Cy Young probably did it too. But after a while you get that funny feeling. And I’ve got it. I’m probably wrong. I got nothing hard. But I have to know. It’s not just the club, it’s Marty. He’s a terrific kid. If other people started to get the funny feeling it would destroy him. He’d be gone and no one would even have to prove it. He wouldn’t be able to pitch for the Yokohama Giants.”
“Hiring a private cop to investigate him isn’t the best way to keep it quiet,” I said.
“I know, you’ve got to work undercover. Even if you proved him innocent the damage would be done.”
“There’s another question there too. What if he’s guilty?”

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Mortal Stakes (Spenser Series #3) 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 42 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the third installment in Parker's 'Spenser' series. In the prior book, 'God Save the Child,' Spenser first meets Susan Silverman, then a high school guidance counselor. Readers of more recent Spenser books will easily recognize Susan. I expected to see Spenser's relationship with Susan build in this book, but Susan plays only a small role here. Spenser is hired by the general manager of the Boston Red Sox to investigate whether the team's star player, Marty Rabb, is deliberately losing games. It comes as no surprise that he is, and his motive for doing so is also quite predictable. Unlike the recent Spenser novels, this book does not feature many plot twists or surprises. Yet the book has many good points. Spenser realizes that the only way he can solve the problem is to take an action that violates his 'code.' His ethical struggle and detached description of his action is engaging. Of course, Spenser is always good for a few cooking recipes, too, and readers of this book will be itching to make spareribs. Spenser even makes two bologna sandwiches sound good. Spenser fans must read the book, and ultimately they will be glad they did. Newcomers to the Spenser series should start with the first book, 'The Godwulf Manuscript,' and work forward. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm in the middle of the 12th book in this series, they are all excellent. I would suggest that they be read in order as the progression of the characters and addition of main characters flows much better. It will be a very sad day when I read the last one... I have never laughed out loud so much reading a book. Spenser and Hawk are the funniest pair and make you wish they were real so you could spend an evening with them!
Dazzle27 More than 1 year ago
This book in Parker's "Spencer" series was very good. Don't be put off with the subject matter because it is still Spencer all the way. The main character in this book will appear later on in the series so it will interesting to find out where he originated. I have read the first of this series all the way to the most current and enjoyed every one.
lycomayflower on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Spenser is hired by the Boston Red Sox to find out if a player is throwing games. His investigation leads him to discoveries about the player and his wife which prompt him to fight for them, rather than simply turn his findings over to his client. For the first three quarters, this is just regular Spenser fare (good, but not super special), but in the last fourth, Spenser must decide what to do when his own moral code sends him conflicting messages and the resulting character development is stellar. One ten-page section of this book makes it my second all-time favorite Spenser (behind [Early Autumn], which is just aces from start to finish).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoy all of the Spenser novels!
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Geckosouth4 More than 1 year ago
This is the first crime series I've really gotten into. Hit is kind of late in the game, but have discovered a new love. Spenser is a man's man. He is who he is and behaves accordingly. I love him!! I'm only up to book 4. I don't anticipate loving everyone as that goes against real expectations. I do however expect that Spenser will be true to himself in each novel. I find these to be very entertaining and humorous. I have to remind myself of the time frame in which they take place and that Spenser grows/ages over time with the author. Sad that Mr. Parker is gone. I do recommend continuing to follow the Spenser series as written by Ace Atkins. He is a fine choice to pick up and carry the torch.
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SlapShot62 More than 1 year ago
Funny this series started about 40 years ago and just stands the test of time. Parker is one of the masters of this genre and the third installment in the Spencer series shines. Relatively simple plot, but the pages fly by and Spencer is the ultimate guy's guy.
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