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The first in the series featuring private detective Spenser sees Spenser hired to return a stolen fourteenth-century manuscript to its rightful owners, an investigation that soon leads him into a complex web of murder, radical politics, adultery, drugs and organised crime.


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The first in the series featuring private detective Spenser sees Spenser hired to return a stolen fourteenth-century manuscript to its rightful owners, an investigation that soon leads him into a complex web of murder, radical politics, adultery, drugs and organised crime.

30 review for The Godwulf Manuscript (A Spenser Mystery)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    I hear this Ace Atkinson guy is good, but I can't bring myself to read a new Spenser now that Parker has died. Instead, I've decided to re-read the first dozen or so Spensers until gal-pal Susan starts annoying me again. In this first mystery, Spenser is hired to find a medieval manuscript stolen from a university. Soon manuscript retrieval takes a back seat when one of the undergraduate radicals suspected of the theft is charged with murdering her boyfriend, and Spenser is convinced she has been I hear this Ace Atkinson guy is good, but I can't bring myself to read a new Spenser now that Parker has died. Instead, I've decided to re-read the first dozen or so Spensers until gal-pal Susan starts annoying me again. In this first mystery, Spenser is hired to find a medieval manuscript stolen from a university. Soon manuscript retrieval takes a back seat when one of the undergraduate radicals suspected of the theft is charged with murdering her boyfriend, and Spenser is convinced she has been framed. Our detective dives into a bewildering world of morally suspect professors, randy rich housewives, crypto-Satanists, heroin traffickers, and the Boston mob. Spenser is not yet fully formed. His hobby is woodcarving (dorky for a detective), he drinks bourbon with bitters (is this really a thing?) and something referred to only as “beer” (brand and type unspecified). Sexually, this early Spenser has fewer scruples and less control, not having yet developed his personal moral code, and this makes him--in my eyes at least--less of a hero. (On the bright side, there is no Susan Silverman; she first appears in the next book, God Bless the Child.) But much of the Spenser we love is here. The smart-ass wisecracks are as smart-ass as ever, the literary allusions frequent and amusing (although I think slightly more arcane here), and the meals he cooks for himself sound delicious. Quirk and Belson are here too, and Joe Broz, and somebody named Phil who looks like a first draft for Vinny. The plot is good, and there are two great shoot-outs near the end, each of which reveal something about the moral nature of the people involved. Now I ask you, how many first class shoot-outs are revelatory of character? That's the Robert B. Parker I love!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Kemper

    I read Robert B. Parker’s The Professional last month and wrote a long review trashing him for ruining Spenser in the last half of his career. Parker died this week, and I feel like a jackass. He had provided me a lot of enjoyment over the years and had a lot to do with turning me into the crime-mystery fan I am today. Plus, while reading the obits his death, and the high praise that was heaped on him by modern mystery writers for reviving the detective genre in the early ‘70, I remembered why I I read Robert B. Parker’s The Professional last month and wrote a long review trashing him for ruining Spenser in the last half of his career. Parker died this week, and I feel like a jackass. He had provided me a lot of enjoyment over the years and had a lot to do with turning me into the crime-mystery fan I am today. Plus, while reading the obits his death, and the high praise that was heaped on him by modern mystery writers for reviving the detective genre in the early ‘70, I remembered why I liked him in the first place. Parker did some fantastic crime writing in the ‘70s into the early ‘90s, and damning him for losing his fastball when he aged wasn’t fair. Guy was 77 years old, still wrote 5 pages a day, 6 days a week, and died at his desk working on a new Spenser novel. He started not one, but two new successful series in the ‘90s after he already had made Spenser an icon. He branched out and wrote westerns and some young adult novels and a several stand-alone novels. He was the writer that Raymond Chandler’s estate tapped to finish Poodle Springs, and he did it well. It was far to easy to take him for granted, even if his early brilliance faded into comfortable routine. So as penance for my general assholery, I’m going back and re-reading the early Spenser books and maybe a few of the other ones he did that I liked. Parker claimed he wrote The Godwulf Manuscript because he missed Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe after he had read all the books and short stories, and it’s obvious that he was thinking of Marlowe when he created Spenser, especially in this first novel. There’s no Susan and no Hawk yet. Just the introduction to private detective Spenser who is hired to find a stolen medieval manuscript by the university it was taken from. Published in 1973 when campus radicalization was in full swing, Spenser suspects a fringe group of damn dirty hippies of the theft, but the murder of one them frames a young female member. Since the cops seem willing to accept the frame-up instead of press for the real killer, it’s up to Spenser to clear her. It was very interesting to go back and read the early version of Spenser after obsessing over the weaker recent books. Many of the early themes and characterization are there. Spenser is still a wise-ass who cares nothing for political agendas or institutional loyalty. For Spenser, the only thing that really matters is his own moral code, and it’s definitely situational. Knowing that he can’t save the world, Spenser doesn’t try. His focus will always remain on trying to save the few he deems worthy while not giving a rat’s ass about whatever bigger picture that everyone else is focused on. And once he’s committed, Spenser does whatever he has to in order to help them. In the early books, it often meant taking actions that he had a hard time living with later. This is Spenser 1.0. Still cocky, funny and tough, but somewhat angrier, lonelier and a little ashamed of his own capacity for violence. After having to slap around a college student to get some critical information, Spenser tries to get something to eat: “Halfway through my steak I caught sight of myself in the mirror above the bar. I looked like someone who ought to eat alone. I didn’t look in the mirror again.” And early Spenser is definitely channeling Phillip Marlowe at times: “I could tell he was impressed by the gun in my hand. The only thing that would have scared him more would have been if I threatened to flog him with a dandelion.” This Spenser is more apt to break his own code than the later version, like sleeping with a couple of women related to the case, and he worries that his life is starting to seem a little shabby around the edges. As much as fans, including me, have bitched about later incarnations of Susan and the way their eventually lovey-dovey relationship took something away from the series, I realized while reading this that Parker was smart to eventually incorporate a long-term relationship into the stories. Spenser alone forever would have been a little to much of a Marlowe clone, and it was his relationships that eventually saved him from being a guy that deserved to eat alone. Next up: Spenser goes to a gay bar in God Save the Child.

  3. 4 out of 5

    carol.

    Ah, the first Spenser mystery, the one to start a series of almost forty books in forty years. Having started it somewhat in the middle, I went back to the beginning to see where it all began. I found writing that appealed even more than mid-series when Parker had distilled his writing down to the bare bones. Though I'm a fan for the art of minimizing in my physical life, there's something to be said for richness in mood and setting, particularly in a mystery, and this supplies it in spades. It Ah, the first Spenser mystery, the one to start a series of almost forty books in forty years. Having started it somewhat in the middle, I went back to the beginning to see where it all began. I found writing that appealed even more than mid-series when Parker had distilled his writing down to the bare bones. Though I'm a fan for the art of minimizing in my physical life, there's something to be said for richness in mood and setting, particularly in a mystery, and this supplies it in spades. It is also coarser, to be certain; late Spenser was sanitized and heroic, faithful to Susan. It's clearly early Spenser, evidenced by a gratuitous torture-porn scene that literally did nothing for the plot, and Spenser's general attitude of a swinging 70s ladies' man. There's a bit of social commentary as well, which late Spenser also seems more comfortable avoiding. Spenser is consulted by a college dean who wants him to find a missing illuminated manuscript which is apparently being held for ransom. He has to spend his time hanging around radical, anti-establishment college students who are all about the dogma, man. It allows for some solid, world-weary reflections: "I felt the beer a little, and i felt the sadness of kids like that who weren’t buying it and weren’t quite sure what it was." One of the radicals gets framed for murder, so the case rapidly shifts from a missing McGuffin to a Find the Real Killer. It's interesting, sometimes, to read these older books and feel the time period soaking through. This is a booze-soaked story, to the point of a cop offering Spenser a pint as he's recovering in the hospital, and the cops are very period. I was kind of amused/fascinated to find an incident where the police officers transported a gunshot victim. They did that, you know, pre-ambulance days. Emergency medical services didn't really get underway until 1970, and paramedics a bit later. I'll be honest; the female characters are accessories, which would annoy me more if it had been long-standing through the series. No, some day, the psychologist Susan will come in and annoy us all with her anorexic eating habits, so I suspect my tolerance was indirectly the result of my irritation with future direction. Parker is also weirdly fascinated by clothes and describes what each character is wearing, even extraneous ones. Again, kind of fun in the retrospective sense. "He looked like a zinnia. Tall and thin with an enormous corona of rust red hair flowing out around his pale, clean-shaven face. He wore a lavender undershirt and a pair of faded, flare-bottomed denim dungarees that were too long and dragged on the floor over his bare feet." Overall, a solid P.I. mystery, and a good start to a series.

  4. 5 out of 5

    James Thane

    "The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse." Thus opens the novel that introduced Robert B. Parker's most famous creation, Boston P.I., Spenser. Spenser was a former cop who'd been fired for insubordination, and he was also a veteran of the Korean War. When The Godwulf Manuscript was published in 1973, he was apparently somewhere in his middle forties, which means that when Parker wrote his last contribution to the series in 2011, Spe "The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse." Thus opens the novel that introduced Robert B. Parker's most famous creation, Boston P.I., Spenser. Spenser was a former cop who'd been fired for insubordination, and he was also a veteran of the Korean War. When The Godwulf Manuscript was published in 1973, he was apparently somewhere in his middle forties, which means that when Parker wrote his last contribution to the series in 2011, Spenser would have been in his early eighties. With the publication this year of the latest book in the series, written by Ace Atkins, Spenser would be pushing ninety. For a guy that old, he still does amazingly well. More important, for a series this long--now forty-five books--the character and the concept have held up very well. Truth to tell, the series had begun to falter a bit toward the end of Parker's life, but Atkins has put it back on track and restored it to its former glory. From the beginning, as suggested by the opening sentence above, Spenser was a world-class smart ass. He was also a very tough guy, wise to the ways of the world, and, naturally, hugely attractive to the ladies. He worked by his own rules, and for Spenser, the ends almost always justified the means. He was a very worthy successor to the generation of tough-guy P.I.s who had come before him. In this case, a very valuable manuscript has been stolen from a Boston University. The manuscriptnappers are asking $100,000 for its safe return, but this is not one of the more stellar universities for which Boston is known. They don't have a hundred grand, and so the university president hires Spenser to get the manuscript back. Spenser's main lead is to a group of campus radicals. Almost immediately, someone is murdered and the stakes are raised significantly. The murder and the theft are obviously related, and Spenser soon finds himself caught between the university officials, the cops, some local mobsters, a lot of uncooperative students and a particularly nasty faculty wife. Naturally, none of these will pose any significant problem for Spenser, but things will get very dicey along the way. Rereading the book after a very long time was a lot of fun, and it's held up very well, especially for a book that's now forty-three years old. Mainly that's because the character of Spenser seems somehow almost timeless and the story moves along so well that you don't even stop to think about all the modern technology that Spenser doesn't have at his beck and call. The character is obviously not fully formed yet. A couple of characters are introduced who will accompany Spenser through the entire run of the series, but Parker is still feeling his way along here, and it was interesting to go back and see the character again as he initially appeared. This is the book in which Spenser meets Brenda Loring, who will be his first significant love interest. I liked Brenda a lot, and like many another fan of this series, I rue the day when she disappeared from the series only to have Spenser wind up with the insufferable Susan Silverman. Happily, that doesn't happen for a while, which is one of the reasons why so many of the early books in this series are among the best of the lot. All in all, this was a great trip back down Memory Lane.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    The Godwulf Manuscript has gone missing from the university and Spenser's been hired to find it. But what does the stolen and ransomed manuscript have to do with the murder of a dope dealer, seemingly by his girlfriend? And can Spenser figure out what is going on before being murdered himself? This is the first Spenser book and quite a good read. While the story is called the Godwulf Manuscript, the aforementioned manuscript doesn't actually get that much action and is phased out pretty early. Th The Godwulf Manuscript has gone missing from the university and Spenser's been hired to find it. But what does the stolen and ransomed manuscript have to do with the murder of a dope dealer, seemingly by his girlfriend? And can Spenser figure out what is going on before being murdered himself? This is the first Spenser book and quite a good read. While the story is called the Godwulf Manuscript, the aforementioned manuscript doesn't actually get that much action and is phased out pretty early. The real meat of the story is the killing of Dennis Powell, a heroin dealer. Spenser takes a beating and comes out on top in the end. Spenser himself is an interesting character, a former cop fired for insubordination. Spenser likes to crack wise at every turn,, which is probably why he was drummed out of the force. I know I wanted to pistol whip him a couple times. He's also quite the lady's man. *** Minor spoiler alert *** How many other books have you read where the hero has sex with the main girl and her mother just hours apart? For fans of crime and mystery, you could do a lot worse. This is where it all starts and it just gets better from here, from what I understand.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jason Koivu

    Robert B. Parker's Spenser detective series kicks off very academically, literally. A valuable manuscript goes missing from a Boston university and Parker's hero Spenser is called in to investigate. This gives Parker a chance to poke fun at stuffy academic types, while showing that Spenser isn't a total meathead himself. However, Spenser is a tough guy and when things get rough Spenser gets tough. Things do get rough. The stolen manuscript turns into a bigger issue that Parker unfolds at a nice p Robert B. Parker's Spenser detective series kicks off very academically, literally. A valuable manuscript goes missing from a Boston university and Parker's hero Spenser is called in to investigate. This gives Parker a chance to poke fun at stuffy academic types, while showing that Spenser isn't a total meathead himself. However, Spenser is a tough guy and when things get rough Spenser gets tough. Things do get rough. The stolen manuscript turns into a bigger issue that Parker unfolds at a nice pace. The plot thickens, but doesn't boil over. The web is intricate and never tangles. The Godwulf Manuscript is a good beginning to a long and fruitful series that I look forward to diving into deeper.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    I’m officially ashamed to call myself a private detective/noir fan. I should be beaten, flogged, and taken out to pasture. I hadn’t heard of the Spenser series until last week when I was doing some deep digging on Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It may have turned into my favorite iteration of the private detective novel. It has the perfect combination of darkness and humor. My eyes start to well up when I start to think about this genre fading away. There’s something about the smart-ass, loner priv I’m officially ashamed to call myself a private detective/noir fan. I should be beaten, flogged, and taken out to pasture. I hadn’t heard of the Spenser series until last week when I was doing some deep digging on Amazon’s bestsellers lists. It may have turned into my favorite iteration of the private detective novel. It has the perfect combination of darkness and humor. My eyes start to well up when I start to think about this genre fading away. There’s something about the smart-ass, loner private detective that I relate with. I wonder why people lost their interest in the loner private detective trope? If anybody has any recommendations on modern-day private detective novels, I’d love to see them in the comments.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Another excellent novel by Parker. Spenser (spelled like the poet, with an 's', not a 'c') is a tough, noir detective. The plot had me guessing a fair amount & it was very well paced. Loved the ending. Well read, too. I'll look forward to more of these. Another excellent novel by Parker. Spenser (spelled like the poet, with an 's', not a 'c') is a tough, noir detective. The plot had me guessing a fair amount & it was very well paced. Loved the ending. Well read, too. I'll look forward to more of these.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Sherriff

    I picked this up at a secondhand bookshop last month and at first thought I'd stumbled onto a poor imitation of Raymond Chandler, complete with a bourbon-soaked wise-ass PI, dames in distress, and .45s singing like Philip Marlowe was alive and well. How derivative, my snooty wise-ass reviewer's voice began... but don't listen to him. What we have here is a loving homage to Chandler's creation. If you like hardboiled PIs for hire and you've read all Chandler published, why wouldn't you want to se I picked this up at a secondhand bookshop last month and at first thought I'd stumbled onto a poor imitation of Raymond Chandler, complete with a bourbon-soaked wise-ass PI, dames in distress, and .45s singing like Philip Marlowe was alive and well. How derivative, my snooty wise-ass reviewer's voice began... but don't listen to him. What we have here is a loving homage to Chandler's creation. If you like hardboiled PIs for hire and you've read all Chandler published, why wouldn't you want to see his archetypes doing battle in more contemporary settings, in this case a university campus in 1970s Boston? Done well, such a book would be a quick, enjoyable read, and this, dear reader, is just that. Download my starter library for free here - http://eepurl.com/bFkt0X - and receive my monthly newsletter with book recommendations galore for the Japanophile, crime-fiction-lover in all of us.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    The Hook - I’m a Robert Parker/Spencer virgin. Ace Atkins, who is the new voice of Spencer, was in my neck of the woods doing an author talk so I decided to begin the series at book one. The Line – ”Insubordination. It’s one of my best things.” The Sinker – This guy’s tough, one I’d call Mr. Spencer if I knew what was good for me. 195 lbs. coming at you with a power-horse of muscle and one whole lot of smart talk to go along with it. On top of this he cooks, delicious offerings, some gourmet, fast The Hook - I’m a Robert Parker/Spencer virgin. Ace Atkins, who is the new voice of Spencer, was in my neck of the woods doing an author talk so I decided to begin the series at book one. The Line – ”Insubordination. It’s one of my best things.” The Sinker – This guy’s tough, one I’d call Mr. Spencer if I knew what was good for me. 195 lbs. coming at you with a power-horse of muscle and one whole lot of smart talk to go along with it. On top of this he cooks, delicious offerings, some gourmet, fast food too and eggs. He listens to jazz, can hold his own in discussing books, and is no slouch when it comes to drink; bourbon, brandy, and even has a few bottles of good wine just in case. His city, Boston, gives him a substantial backdrop for crime and mayhem. These characteristics give me a hint of the man who will continue a career as a private eye in several more mysteries. Speaking of mystery this one was ok. It’s really about the man more than the story. Spencer is hired by a Boston University to recover the stolen Godwulf Manuscript, an illuminated rare book. When Spencer asks what an illuminated manuscript is he gets a good description: A handwritten book, done by monks usually, with illustrations in color, often red and gold in the margins. This particular one is in Latin, and contains an allusion of Richard Rolle, the fourteenth-century English mystic. It was discovered forty years ago behind an ornamental façade at Godwulf Abbey, where it is thought to have been secreted during the pillage of the monasteries that followed Henry the Eighth’s break with Rome.” Illuminated books in themselves are an interesting topic but I would have to be satisfied with the above as though it prompts his hiring it is not the real focus of this story. The original cover featured a nice picture of an illuminated book however. The University President thinks a group called SCACE (Student Committee Against Capitalist Exploitation) may be behind the theft and Spencer is off to interview a few. When one radical male student ends up dead, his girlfriend becomes the prime suspect. Spencer doesn’t believe she’s guilty and we’re off and running. Originally published in the early 70’s The Godwulf Manuscript held up pretty well. I couldn’t help but think though how some things have really changed. Half a dozen McDonald’s burgers and a pint of bourbon constituted Spencer’s distracted driving of the day. Of course there are other changes in the 40+ years since the series origins but it really seemed not to matter. Parker has been compared to Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Stepping in Chandler’s shoes he finished the last Marlowe book, Poodle Springs. It seems somehow fitting that the Parker’s pen is passed on to Ace Atkins, to keep Spencer, this beloved P.I. alive and ready to fight another day.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Robert Parker is yet another author who I went about reading backwards, starting with his Everett Hitch & Virgil Cole westerns (which are awesome, by the way) instead of with Spenser, the detective that made him famous. What actually drew me to read this book at this point in time was a review from Orson Scott Card recommending the latest Elvis Cole novel by Robert Crais -- a series and author I'd never read -- that also mentioned Parker and his detective Spenser. So I decided to read the both th Robert Parker is yet another author who I went about reading backwards, starting with his Everett Hitch & Virgil Cole westerns (which are awesome, by the way) instead of with Spenser, the detective that made him famous. What actually drew me to read this book at this point in time was a review from Orson Scott Card recommending the latest Elvis Cole novel by Robert Crais -- a series and author I'd never read -- that also mentioned Parker and his detective Spenser. So I decided to read the both this and The Monkey's Raincoat. I was not disappointed with either. As for this book, it seemed almost as dated as Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, but that didn't bother me at all. It was written in a style that paid its respects to those writers, with the Spenser character being very much in the mold of Spade and Marlowe. Spenser, however, pushes boundaries further than his predecessors -- sleeping with both his collegiate client and her married mother, for example. The decision to name the book after a MacGuffin that disappeared from the story slightly after the first act was a bit puzzling, as was the attitude of basically everyone at the University -- but then again, I have no idea what the climate of higher learning was like in the early 70s. All in all, this book definitely left me excited to read further Spenser adventures.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    Spenser is officially my new favorite guy. He has everything I'm looking for in a private detective. He takes guff from no police lieutenant: "Quirk looked at me, then Belson . . . 'You're not working for the D.A. now, boy, you're working my side of the street, and if you get in the way I'll kick your ass right into the gutter. Got that?' 'Can I feel your muscle?' I said." He's so tough he considers his bourbon cut with the addition of bitters or ice (I myself need a little water or, heaven forb Spenser is officially my new favorite guy. He has everything I'm looking for in a private detective. He takes guff from no police lieutenant: "Quirk looked at me, then Belson . . . 'You're not working for the D.A. now, boy, you're working my side of the street, and if you get in the way I'll kick your ass right into the gutter. Got that?' 'Can I feel your muscle?' I said." He's so tough he considers his bourbon cut with the addition of bitters or ice (I myself need a little water or, heaven forbid, a splash of lemonade in there). He understands dining well, or not: "The waitress brought our sandwiches, large, on dark bread, with pickles & chips. They were sweet pickles, though." He knows how to deal with a cranky building super, but the right way: "I said, 'There is a dead person in room 13 & I am going to call the police and tell them. If you say anything to me but yes sir I will hit you at least six times in the face.'" He has fine opinions on home decor: "It was the first time I could recall sitting in a director's chair. I had missed little, I decided." And finally, he truly appreciates that the best things in life are the also the simplest: "It was 8:10 when I left my apartment. Smart, clean, well fed, and alive as a sonova bitch." This is surely the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bill Lynas

    Private Eye Spenser makes his first appearance in this witty thriller from Robert B Parker. The story was written (& is set in) the early 1970s & world weary Parker speaks his mind at every opportunity. This allows for some sharp & highly amusing dialogue throughout the story. This may be the first Spenser novel I've read, but it won't be the last. Private Eye Spenser makes his first appearance in this witty thriller from Robert B Parker. The story was written (& is set in) the early 1970s & world weary Parker speaks his mind at every opportunity. This allows for some sharp & highly amusing dialogue throughout the story. This may be the first Spenser novel I've read, but it won't be the last.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    "The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse." That is one hell of a line to start your book off. It certainly sets a tone for our narrator, doesn't it? Let's start off with a little background... not on the book, but on me. A week or so back I started reading the first of Parker’s Jesse Stone novels, and the reaction from a few of my friends was along the lines of “Why are you reading this when you haven’t read any of the Spencer novels "The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse." That is one hell of a line to start your book off. It certainly sets a tone for our narrator, doesn't it? Let's start off with a little background... not on the book, but on me. A week or so back I started reading the first of Parker’s Jesse Stone novels, and the reaction from a few of my friends was along the lines of “Why are you reading this when you haven’t read any of the Spencer novels?” I’ll be honest, the only thing I knew about Spencer came from the back of the Dresden Files books, where they say that Dresden is a combination of Spencer meets Merlin. So yeah… I was a bit clueless there, and decided to check out the first of this 30+ book series. The end results? Fairly entertaining. As mentioned, I came into this after reading Night Passage, so I’m coming from the unique perspective of starting off with a later Parker book and then going to his first. The writing style is so different that they could be two completely different authors. The chapters are longer here (despite being the shorter book) and there are lot more description, whereas the other book was mostly dialogue. The later book was faster paced, whereas this one is much rougher and very clearly channeling authors that came before him (Here’s looking at you Chandler). I can’t really say that one approach is better than another, but I will say it was easier to get into Night Passage. With that said, Spencer is a more entertaining protagonist than Stone was; he’s got more charm and a great sense of humor that shows off from the first line. I get the feeling though that Parker was trying to figure out the tone for the character. I haven’t read the other books, so I’m not sure how the character will evolve, but Parker was certainly off to a good start. My only real issue with the book is that I wished it would have focused more on the manuscript in the title. One could have based an entire book off that hunt, but Parker instead chooses to focus on a more traditional mystery, with the manuscript seeming more like an after thought the farther we go. That aspect gets resolved, but its unsatisfactory when compared to the rest of the plot. All in all, I found it a pretty good start to the series, and one I’m will to continue with in the future.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marty Fried

    I've heard of this series in the past, and thought it might be interesting to check it out. It's a bit old, but only a little dated which might be a minus for younger readers as there are some references that might be missed. No problem for me, of course. It was a fairly fun read, very quick, and I was finished before I knew it. He's definitely a wise guy, but then again, so am I, so it was OK. I'll try to remember some of his quips. Like, "I made a bet with myself that ..., and I won." He's a bit I've heard of this series in the past, and thought it might be interesting to check it out. It's a bit old, but only a little dated which might be a minus for younger readers as there are some references that might be missed. No problem for me, of course. It was a fairly fun read, very quick, and I was finished before I knew it. He's definitely a wise guy, but then again, so am I, so it was OK. I'll try to remember some of his quips. Like, "I made a bet with myself that ..., and I won." He's a bit over the top sometimes in these politically-correct days in his treatment of women, but we need to cut some slack and consider when it took place. I'm not sure what to think about someone who can sleep with both a mother and her daughter in the same day - if I were younger, jealousy might come to mind... hey, just kidding. I'll probably read a few more to see how it goes, but I have a feeling it'll get old if I read too many.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike (the Paladin)

    Well, I don't guess I'll be reading another Spencer book soon...but to be fair it may not be all "the book's" fault. First I lived through the '70s and don't long for more of the shaggy clothed, self-righteous pan handlers who lived on their parent's income while cutting down the life style of people who are/were stupid enough to work for a living. I graduated in that generation and never quite fit in. I was too busy working. Silly me. Okay so Spencer doesn't suffer these fools gladly in this book Well, I don't guess I'll be reading another Spencer book soon...but to be fair it may not be all "the book's" fault. First I lived through the '70s and don't long for more of the shaggy clothed, self-righteous pan handlers who lived on their parent's income while cutting down the life style of people who are/were stupid enough to work for a living. I graduated in that generation and never quite fit in. I was too busy working. Silly me. Okay so Spencer doesn't suffer these fools gladly in this book...I just got annoyed all over again. Take a bath and get some deodorant and shampoo, especially if you're going to wear your hair that shaggy. I mean you want long scraggly hair I'm cool with it, but I'd rather that you send the lice to find homes elsewhere... Just me. Okay enough, that wasn't the biggest reason that when I laid this aside that I wasn't dying to get back to it. The biggest reason was/is that I got the audio version from the library (thankfully I'd hate to have used an Audible credit on it) and the reader (Michael Prichard [whom I've heard read other books and do a good job]) ....left a bit to be desired. Spencer is a bit of a wise cracking protagonist and here he's involved with a rich privileged young woman (who's living as part of the wonderful people of course sneering at rich folk) and her family. There are opportunities for Spencer to smart off galore but the reader reads the book in a flat, uninfected monotone. At one point the female protagonist calls Spencer and is crying for help as in "HELP ME". Our reader reads if you can imagine it as ....help me... sigh. So a pretty good mystery with a couple of fist fights and some little action and intrigue. Probably better than my impression because of said reader. Should I get another Spencer book I'll probably go another way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    LJ

    First Sentence: The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse. Boston PI Spenser (with an “s” like the poet) has been hired by a university president to recover a 14th century illuminated manuscript. He is directed to a SCARE, the Student committee Against Capitalist Exploitation and Terry Orchard, one of the members, whom he finds along with her aggressive boyfriend, Dennis. Spenser receives a 2 a.m. call and finds Terry drugged. Dennis First Sentence: The office of the university president looked like the front parlor of a successful Victorian whorehouse. Boston PI Spenser (with an “s” like the poet) has been hired by a university president to recover a 14th century illuminated manuscript. He is directed to a SCARE, the Student committee Against Capitalist Exploitation and Terry Orchard, one of the members, whom he finds along with her aggressive boyfriend, Dennis. Spenser receives a 2 a.m. call and finds Terry drugged. Dennis dead and the evidence of a professional hit. I’ve not read this book since the 1970s and it is an interesting cultural look back. I am very happy fashions have changed away from white vinyl boots and leisure suits and that technology has advanced from mimeographs and typewriters. As silly as some of the slang sounds today, at least it wasn’t as profane as today’s speech. It is also interesting looking at Spenser in his later 30s. He still thought he was funnier than anyone else did. This is a pre-Hawk, pre-Susan Spencer. As annoying as Susan can be, the one thing she did bring to the series was Spenser’s monogamy. What hasn't changed is Spenser's doggedness, determination to see the case through, dedication to the innocent and his cooking. I am always amazed that he has just the right ingredients in his kitchen to make a wonderful meal. What Parker did extremely well was description, dialogue and plot. With a very few words, you knew where you were and the other characters in the scene. He often employed analogies—“The wet wool smelled like a grammar room coatroom.”—which put you right into his scene. His dialogue, even with the slang of the period, was always tight, crisp and real. As to plot, the story started a bit light and annoying. However, once it took hold, it hit its stride and I was completely engrossed. Re-reading this very first book makes it clear as to why I have read every other book Parker wrote. THE GODWULF MANUSCRIPT (PI-Spenser-Boston-Cont/1973) – VG Parker, Robert B. – 1st of series A Dell Book, ©1973, US Paperback – ISBN: 04401129613

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    I was very, very impressed with this first Spenser book. My dad is a huge fan of Parker’s so I don’t know why I slept on this series for so long. I think I kind of wrote his stuff off after having to sit through the TV show as a kid, but I really enjoyed myself with this one. Spenser is super likable, tough as nails but still obviously a good guy and legitimately funny. A lot of characters in books I read come off as less funny than their authors seem to want them to be (as much as I like him, E I was very, very impressed with this first Spenser book. My dad is a huge fan of Parker’s so I don’t know why I slept on this series for so long. I think I kind of wrote his stuff off after having to sit through the TV show as a kid, but I really enjoyed myself with this one. Spenser is super likable, tough as nails but still obviously a good guy and legitimately funny. A lot of characters in books I read come off as less funny than their authors seem to want them to be (as much as I like him, Elvis Cole is probably the best example of this...even characters around him say shit like “he’s not as funny as he thinks he is") but I found myself chuckling out loud at some of his smartassery. The plot didn’t start off as anything world-changing but it did blossom from a “missing item” case into a suitably complex murder mystery with the attending staples of the PI genre like the aloof and cold rich folks, suave mob boss with his ever-present ugly and violent henchmen, journalists with necessary inside information, etc. There’s not much of a supporting cast in this one, but I appreciated the alone time inside Spenser’s head and it helped me get a feel for his character early on in the series. There were parts of the novel where it did show its age (mostly dealing with the obnoxious hippie/counterculture characters around the university and their goofy slang) but I did appreciate the details on the very 70s fashion. Man, I knew this series was long-running but I just looked at its page on this site and Parker managed to crank out like 40 of these motherfuckers while also writing other series and standalone novels? That’s impressive. Hopefully they stay at this level of quality or better because I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this one. Usually the first few books in a series are a little shaky and I really didn’t feel any of that with this one. It had it all; violence, action, multiple mysteries, atmosphere, a fun and likable main character, sex, and some observations on human nature unique to the author--in short, The Good Shit. I very much have that “falling in love with a new series” glow in my brain at this point and I’m excited to see where the books take me.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa (Harmonybites)

    I didn't like Spenser, and that's a problem with a novel starting a series, one in a first person voice where Spenser is supposed to be your intimate guide into the story. If you don't like your narrator and protagonist, then you're going to need a really strong voice or plot or style or characterizations, and I didn't find that the case here. I did rather enjoy the story in the beginning--it was published in 1973 and reading about the campus radicals, the hippies, the days where you called cops I didn't like Spenser, and that's a problem with a novel starting a series, one in a first person voice where Spenser is supposed to be your intimate guide into the story. If you don't like your narrator and protagonist, then you're going to need a really strong voice or plot or style or characterizations, and I didn't find that the case here. I did rather enjoy the story in the beginning--it was published in 1973 and reading about the campus radicals, the hippies, the days where you called cops "pigs" and "Super Swine" was like a trip in a time machine; it was interesting to visit, all the more because you're happy you don't live there. Spenser has a rather smart--and smart aleck voice. But boy, this is another hard-drinking PI who thinks nothing of break-ins--and worse--roughing up a guy who won't talk, and sleeping not only with his client's wife, but their daughter. (On the same day--it comes across as more male fantasy than anything plausible or relevant.) It was around there, about half-way through, when I gave up on Spenser. The mystery certainly wasn't enough. Part of the problem might be I'm reading way too many hard-boiled private detective series lately back to back. The last one was Paretsky's VI Warshawski, and she too gets worked over at one point by mobster types--and in both cases, I'm thinking, gee, isn't that sort of holding a Neon sign over your head saying "look here for villain?" I stayed with the Paretsky though, because I liked her detective--Spenser however, just came across as a thug.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cathy DuPont

    Really liked...first of Spenser novels. Curious though because Parker said in interview(s) later that he didn't create first name for Spenser. However, on page 87 of paperback, Spenser (as I read it) is called Jim by two cops escorting him from campus. Only reference to Spenser's first name. Perhaps Parker forgot that couple of paragraphs as years and books went by? Anyone else notice that? *************** Well, well, well. Before I started reading the Jim Spenser (sounds funny) and Hawk series, Really liked...first of Spenser novels. Curious though because Parker said in interview(s) later that he didn't create first name for Spenser. However, on page 87 of paperback, Spenser (as I read it) is called Jim by two cops escorting him from campus. Only reference to Spenser's first name. Perhaps Parker forgot that couple of paragraphs as years and books went by? Anyone else notice that? *************** Well, well, well. Before I started reading the Jim Spenser (sounds funny) and Hawk series, I had read that Robert B. Parker was asked why he didn't give Spenser a first name? Here is a paragraph from Wiki: Personal life[edit] Parker and his wife had two sons, David and Daniel. Originally, the character of Spenser was to have been called "David," but Parker didn't want to appear to favor one of his sons over the other. Parker therefore omitted Spenser's first name entirely, and, to this day, the first name of the fictional Spenser remains unknown.[17] I tripped over The Godwulf Manuscript (for 25 cents) and read until I found the answer to the question, "what is Spenser's first name?" All I can think of is that RBParker simply forgot that he did give Spenser a first name and it's on page 87 of the above edition. I'll try to post here later. As far as I know, Parker used Jim Spenser's full name just this one time. Let me know if you want it in PDF and I'll send it. 7.10.14

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sebastien Castell

    I'd never read any of Robert B. Parker's novels about his wise-cracking private investigator, Spenser. However I'd recently noticed a mention of the fantasy author Steven Brust's style being likened to that of Robert B. Parter, so I wanted to give one a try. First, I'm not sure I'd agree with the characterization of Brust being stylistically like Parker. Yes, both feature a certain noir-ish prose that has resonances with Hammett and Chandler, but Brust's Vlad Taltos tends to be a lot more interna I'd never read any of Robert B. Parker's novels about his wise-cracking private investigator, Spenser. However I'd recently noticed a mention of the fantasy author Steven Brust's style being likened to that of Robert B. Parter, so I wanted to give one a try. First, I'm not sure I'd agree with the characterization of Brust being stylistically like Parker. Yes, both feature a certain noir-ish prose that has resonances with Hammett and Chandler, but Brust's Vlad Taltos tends to be a lot more internally-focused than Spenser. That said, others might find more commonality between the two than I did. Taken on its own, The Godwulf Manuscript is a fun and fast-paced read. Spencer's a likeable lead character with, if not a heart of gold, at least a heart. Like his noir forebears, he pretends to a certain dispassion but a deeper sense of right and wrong propels him into danger with regularity. The rest of the cast come off less as nuanced characters and more like parts of the landscape through which Spencer must travel. It's certainly an entertaining landscape, though. One of the challenges of reading detective novels from the 70's and 80's is that you're highly likely to run into attitudes of the time, filtered through the author's own sensibilities, that for today's readers range from out-of-date to out-and-out offensive. Spencer's neither overtly sexist nor homophobic as a character, and in fact Parker seems to go out of his way to show those who use homophobic slurs in the book in a poor light. But the underlying narrative dynamics still favour a sense of the world in which women are understood in terms of sexual attractiveness and men in terms of their relative power over each other. I've no expertise whatsoever in evaluating how much a book reinforces or transgresses against oppressive norms, so I may be either giving Parker too much or too little credit. Taken as a whole, though, I enjoyed the first Spenser novel. He's the sort of rugged wise-cracking P.I. we've seen many times, but done here, I think, with a bit more skill and self-awareness. The Godwulf Manuscript is the kind of quick, feisty detective novel that no doubt hooks many readers into reaching for the next one in the series.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    3.5 stars. Stubborn and cheeky to a fault, I can't help but think of Chandler's Philip Marlowe as I read this first Spenser story. Looking forward to more. 3.5 stars. Stubborn and cheeky to a fault, I can't help but think of Chandler's Philip Marlowe as I read this first Spenser story. Looking forward to more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mira

    Be warned: I am about to spoil the shit out of this book, so don’t read on if you’re not up for it. The Godwulf Manuscript gets going when the president of a university in Boston — unnamed, but from context it’s probably BU — calls in private detective Spenser. A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript has disappeared, and an anonymous caller has demanded $100,000 in ransom. This is a total giveaway — if “the university” were Harvard they’d fish the money out of their couch cushions and the boo Be warned: I am about to spoil the shit out of this book, so don’t read on if you’re not up for it. The Godwulf Manuscript gets going when the president of a university in Boston — unnamed, but from context it’s probably BU — calls in private detective Spenser. A fourteenth-century illuminated manuscript has disappeared, and an anonymous caller has demanded $100,000 in ransom. This is a total giveaway — if “the university” were Harvard they’d fish the money out of their couch cushions and the book would be done here. They don’t and it’s not. In the initial interview with Spenser, the president indicates that a far-left student organization, SCACE, is at the top of his suspect list. I should note that he’s fingering the group for precisely no reason. He literally says “it’s a gut guess,” I guess because they’re a bunch of hippies? No worries, it turns out that he is totally right to finger this group for precisely no reason. Onward! Anyway, Spenser goes to investigate, and the first person he talks to is Terry Orchard. Terry is a girl born into privilege who has gone anti-establishment during her college years and is, at twenty, the secretary of SCACE. He takes her to a local pub for a beer to ask her about the manuscript, and about a minute into their conversation her boyfriend shows up and Spenser punches him in the face. Then he leaves without getting any answers from Terry or Dennis. So, naturally, when a couple of hoodlums break into Terry and Dennis’s apartment, shoot Dennis dead, and dope Terry unto incoherency, her last lucid thought is “must … call … that … guy … I met … that one time ….” Thank goodness she knows one person who she can count on as a true friend in this world! Spenser to the rescue! The book goes on in this vein. Spenser is a badass and smarter and better than everyone, and whenever it looks like he might run into a dead end, someone will call him out of nowhere and give him a new lead. Oh, and in case you were in suspense, yes, he does sleep with the twenty-year-old Terry. I bet you were worried that might not happen! Rest easy, my friend. It does. Oh, and you’ll be relieved to know that he sleeps with her mother, too. He spaces them less than 24 hours apart. Don’t worry, though, he’s a total gentleman. I mean, both of those ladies came on to him. Saying no would have been plain uncivilized. The book ends “happily.” Terry remembers where she came from and gets back on the right track — you can tell because she starts wearing makeup and ditches her faded Levi jacket for a dapple gray suede coat with white fur trim. I am not remotely kidding. The unhinged cowardly hippie professor is safely behind bars, thank God. And Spenser gets to bang the university president’s secretary. Oh, the manuscript, you ask? That got returned 75 pages ago. Did you think that was what the book was actually about? Hahahahahahaha sucker!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carmen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Wow, I can't believe this was published in 1973. I also can't believe how amazing and well-written it is. I had forgotten how much of a womanizer Spenser was before he found Susan. In this book he sleeps with a mother and daughter within the same 24-hour period and sets up a date with a third woman in the end. The daughter that he sleeps with he also saves from some sort of demonic cult rape. They talk a lot about how strong and broad-shouldered he is. But all this doesn't make the book cheesy.. Wow, I can't believe this was published in 1973. I also can't believe how amazing and well-written it is. I had forgotten how much of a womanizer Spenser was before he found Susan. In this book he sleeps with a mother and daughter within the same 24-hour period and sets up a date with a third woman in the end. The daughter that he sleeps with he also saves from some sort of demonic cult rape. They talk a lot about how strong and broad-shouldered he is. But all this doesn't make the book cheesy...far from it. It is a very enjoyable, vivid and fast read. It makes me remember why I adore Robert B. Parker and Spenser. It's sad that Parker has died.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda

    I've been curious about the Spenser series for a long, long time. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read one. I really liked it. It's set in the 1970's. I smiled a lot at the descriptions of the clothes worn by college students and the dialogue, man! Everyone is "man." Lots of action, a tiny bit of very modestly described sex (which is good by me as I don't like too much sex in books). The plot was compelling and I loved Spenser. I will certainly continue the series and I won't be waiting long t I've been curious about the Spenser series for a long, long time. I wish I hadn't waited so long to read one. I really liked it. It's set in the 1970's. I smiled a lot at the descriptions of the clothes worn by college students and the dialogue, man! Everyone is "man." Lots of action, a tiny bit of very modestly described sex (which is good by me as I don't like too much sex in books). The plot was compelling and I loved Spenser. I will certainly continue the series and I won't be waiting long to do so. Highly recommended for a nice, quick, retro mystery.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Meg

    Being a PI seems to have been far more work before cellphones and the internet. This 70s PI series has been on my TBR list forever and I’m pleased it kicked off well. Story was good and suitably gritty, lead character was entertaining and has aged reasonably well (a couple of books from the same era haven’t appealed because the lead characters have a sexist dickhead vibe when read now). I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series, and am particularly keen on seeing Ace Being a PI seems to have been far more work before cellphones and the internet. This 70s PI series has been on my TBR list forever and I’m pleased it kicked off well. Story was good and suitably gritty, lead character was entertaining and has aged reasonably well (a couple of books from the same era haven’t appealed because the lead characters have a sexist dickhead vibe when read now). I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the rest of the series, and am particularly keen on seeing Ace Atkins’ contribution.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mur Lafferty

    Hey cookie, hey lovely, your thighs are lush, let me sleep with you, or maybe your daughter, but I'll be a gentleman and wait till NEXT chapter to plow her field. what, there's a macguffin that's missing? Let me insult everyone who could aid me and sleep with a few dames and I'll get it sorted out before the next broad spreads her legs for my incomprehensible sex appeal. No, I didn't like it. Hey cookie, hey lovely, your thighs are lush, let me sleep with you, or maybe your daughter, but I'll be a gentleman and wait till NEXT chapter to plow her field. what, there's a macguffin that's missing? Let me insult everyone who could aid me and sleep with a few dames and I'll get it sorted out before the next broad spreads her legs for my incomprehensible sex appeal. No, I didn't like it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Doranna Durgin

    Ahh, the first Spenser book. Heavily dated, but not in a way that affects the story; for me, it added to the story. And no one does dry dialogue like Robert Parker with Spenser!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    Spenser is hired by a Boston University to recover an ancient manuscript, the Godwulf Manuscript, that was stolen and ransomed. In the process of locating this manuscript, people start dying, and a young woman is set up to take the fall for at least one of these murders. The young woman's parents also hire Spenser to clear her of the murder charges. I LOVED this novel. I love the plot, which was complex but didn't vear off into unnecessary subplots. I loved the dialogue. Spenser's wit is hysteric Spenser is hired by a Boston University to recover an ancient manuscript, the Godwulf Manuscript, that was stolen and ransomed. In the process of locating this manuscript, people start dying, and a young woman is set up to take the fall for at least one of these murders. The young woman's parents also hire Spenser to clear her of the murder charges. I LOVED this novel. I love the plot, which was complex but didn't vear off into unnecessary subplots. I loved the dialogue. Spenser's wit is hysterical! Parker could stand to use "he said"/"she said" etc. a little less, but otherwise, I loved his writing. Quirks character is an excellent support: he's dynamic and his straight-laced ways are a great counter-part to Spenser's wit.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Chrisl

    Parker's Spenser provided so many hours of enjoyable reading. Didn't read this one first. Would re-read it first. Deserves 5-star for beginning an exceptional series Fair to call it a classic? Parker's Spenser provided so many hours of enjoyable reading. Didn't read this one first. Would re-read it first. Deserves 5-star for beginning an exceptional series Fair to call it a classic?

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