Imagine that you are losing your eyesight. You know that you can read only a limited number of books before things become too blurry to distinguish one word from another. Would you alter the criteria you have in selecting books to read? Probably. Would you give up on a book sooner if it didn't lure you in in the first couple of dozen pages? You bet you would.

In fact, that was the situation I found myself in when I picked up Robert Parker’s Family Honor. I had never read a Parker book before. I had never even watched an episode of Spenser on TV. But I had become a recent fan of the screen adaptations of his Jesse Stone books. I liked the honesty of the character, the spare dialogue that is also found in Larry McMurtry’s best novels), and the situation that Parker had set up for his adventures. So when I found out that Parker had written a third series of mystery novels—one featuring a female detective—I was intrigued enough to buy the first one. The problem was, was it good enough to spend on it some of the remaining time I still have to read? It turned out that the answer was yes.

Sunny Randall, the protagonist of Family Honor, is very much a Jesse Stone-type character, yet she is unarguably female—not just some guy’s fantasy of what a woman should look, talk, and feel like.The Prologue, a chapter that set the table for the story’s beginning, was a trial, not just because it was clumsy, but because it was in italics, which does not agree with my eyes. I almost put it down then, but I’m glad I didn't. Once the story started, I was hooked; and the farther I got into it, the better the book became.

As I mentioned before, it is written very much in the tone of the Jesse Stone stories, and as such, it is very honest. In fact, Sunny is fascinated by the concept of honesty, especially when she rescues a runaway teenager from the streets of Boston and tries to keep her safe from all kinds of mayhem. How honest can she be with the girl when the girl’s parents may be involved in illegal activities? The question becomes personal as she ponders some of the decisions she has recently made in her own life: why she chose to become a PI? Why she can’t give up her dream of becoming a painter? Why she has divorced a man that she loves?

These questions are at the heart of the book, but even after 30-plus novels, Parker managed to come up with a unique character in an unusual setting. Yet what surprised me most about this book was the wisdom I found there. Sunny’s feelings, thoughts, and the advice she doles out to her teen-aged charge. Her way of handling things. The fact that Parker was able to call up this level of ability and interest after so many other books is a testament to him, and I take off my hat to his memory.

Will I begin to read his Spenser novels now? No. Nor will I revisit the Jesse Stone novels in their print form. But if the second book in the Sunny Randall series comes my way, I may just devote a little of remaining reading time to it. I can always get Moby Dick on tape, right?

As usual, having five stars to use as rating quantifiers is inadequate. Four stars is too much, but I am forced to round up from a very satisfying 3.7.

UPDATE 6/8/2013. I have now read the other five books in the Sunny Randall series. Although Parker keeps the action and the fun going through the second novel, he adds nothing new, and the Sunny Randall we get is somehow less than the Sunny Randall we thought we knew. The remaining books are simply a rehash of Sunny wanting to be with Richie, pages and pages of dog antics, and an incredible amount of drinking. There is action too, of course, but Sunny's wisdom seems to disappear after the first book. I was also taken aback when Parker simply drops one of the most interesting characters from the first book, a young woman who Sunny rescues from the street and sort of semi-adopts. Never mentioned again. Well, sometimes as writers we get over our heads. Still, I would give Sunny Randall #2 3 stars. The rest would get less.