Family Honor

by Robert B. Parker

A Sunny Randall Novel

A blazingly original new novel from the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, featuring a sharp, tough, sexy new P.I., Sunny Randall.

"Robert B. Parker has always been a master of razor-sharp and witty dialogue, hard-driving suspense and memorable characterization," says the Houston Chronicle. With both the classic Spenser series and the more recent Jesse Stone novels, Parker's spare prose and tight storytelling have earned him critical praise and popular success in equal measure. In Family Honor, he creates an entirely new character—young, smart, and, for the first time, female.

Her name is Sunny Randall, a Boston P.I. and former cop, a college graduate, an aspiring painter, a divorcee, and the owner of a miniature bullterrier named Rosie. Hired by a wealthy family to locate their teenage daughter, Sunny is tested by the parents' preconceived notion of what a detective should be. With the help of underworld contacts she tracks down the runaway Millicent, who has turned to prostitution, rescues her from her pimp, and finds herself, at thirty-four, the unlikely custodian of a difficult teenager when the girl refuses to return to her family.

But Millicent's problems are rooted in much larger crimes than running away, and Sunny, now playing the role of bodyguard, is caught in a shooting war with some very serious mobsters. She turns for help to her ex-husband, Richie, himself the son of a mob family, and to her dearest friend, Spike, a flamboyant and dangerous gay man. Heading this unlikely alliance, Sunny must solve at least one murder, resolve a criminal conspiracy that reaches to the top of state government, and bring Millicent back into functional young womanhood.


"A mix of touching, emotional scenes and rapid-fire action and suspense. The combination makes Sunny an interesting, appealing character and Family Honor a fun, engaging read."
The Times Union (Albany, NY)

"Parker handles the slippery emotions well..."
The Boston Globe

"Like Parker's other novels, Family Honor moves quickly, aided by some great one-liners."
The Associated Press

"The kind of humane, shrewd, snappy, wonderfully diverting stuff Parker has been turning out for years with—at least it seems so—one hand tied behind his back...It's a gift...A series debut which in its unassuming way glows."
The Washington Post

"The book is hard-edged and action filled (Sunny kills a man, for example), but it has a subtler side. Without being maudlin, it explores mothering instincts, nesting, romance, marriage, and independence (through Sunny's efforts to help a run-away child and her relationship with her ex). The novel is fast paced and witty. And Parker...again demonstrates what a master of dialogue he of the best Parker novels..."
Austin American-Statesman

"Parker's long suits have always been snappy patter and the clever ways in which his engaging protagonists react to thorny situations. Family Honor possesses these in abundance, along with lots of action, some romance, and a nice, not overly-cute dog (a bull terrier, if you must know)."
Los Angeles Times

"The writing is crisp, the dialogue spare—both hallmarks of Parker's style. And his character wit is not lacking either...This is vintage Robert Parker, and fans of Spenser should enjoy this new character, too."
The Indianapolis Star

"Family Honor is a first-rate piece of entertainment...a heartfelt story of emotional rescue...While Parker virtually invented the sensitive detective, he never forgets he's writing a murder mystery. Bullets and wisecracks aplenty balance out the emotional stuff..."

"After 26 crime novels featuring Boston private investigator Spenser, Parker has created a feisty new Bean town P.I., Sunny Randall, ex-cop, divorcee and aspiring artist...Parker wrote Family Honor for Helen Hunt, who'll play Sunny Randall next year in the film adaptation, which will have a hard time matching Parker's fast-paced actin and smart-mouthed dialogue. Fans of Spenser will like Randall..."
The San Francisco Examiner

"With Family Honor, Parker delivers his freshest, most original and innovative work since he introduced Spenser in The Godwulf Manuscript more than 25 years ago. And that's because Parker has taken such care in shaping Sunny. While Parker employs some typical tricks of his trade—a trusted and sometimes violent sidekick, Boston environs, a cute dog and a plot that strongly resembles several of his earlier novels—he has been careful not to make Sunny a Spenser in a dress. Utilizing his trademark punchy sentences and short chapters heavy on razor-sharp dialogue, Parker makes Sunny someone the reader not only will like but also trust...Sunny's savvy makes her a pleasure to be around."

"As in most of Mr. Parker's novels, finding out who did it is not the point (or a real surprise). What drives the book is character development. He writes in the tradition of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond chandler but infuses his books with a humanity all his own...Writing in Sunny's voice is a gamble for someone so well known for writing in the persona of a rugged ex-boxer. Mr. Parker pulls it off...He has created a riveting, multi-dimensional woman who is not afraid to be confused and overmatched in a man's world."
The Cincinnati Enquirer

"Parker focuses on his heroine's character and her problems, personal and professional. It's a wise choice; a successful series begins with the creation of a compelling protagonist, a task Parker handles admirably."
The San Diego Union-Tribune

"Sunny's more than Spenser in high heels...suitably conflicted and empathetic. With the advent of Jesse Stone and now with the arrival of Sunny Randall, he's revitalized Spenser as well. Whoever he writes about next, we'll be waiting."
The Orlando Sentinel

"With Family Honor, the versatile Robert B. Parker—best known for his Spenser private eye series—proves that he may be the foremost among today's writer's of American crime fiction. He does so by extending his reach to create a fascinating new protagonist, Boston female private investigator Sunny Randall, and starring her in this memorable narrative... Family Honor is Parker's most emotional and multi-layered book, brimming with uncommon sensitivity, indelibly sharp characters, keen psychological insight and the most penetrating and illuminating dead-on dialogue, a talent for which Parker's been cited in the Spenser series... Family Honor is a moving, involved, quietly powerful story...Not only does Parker stunningly enlarge his versatility and hone his story telling in the novel, but the results may very well make Family Honor (a Book-of-the-Month selection) his finest yet."
The Buffalo News

"Parker is a pro...the best thing about the book, other than Parker's superb pacing, is Randall's relationship with her foundling...Parker has come up with another entertaining mix that promises to be a screenwriter's dream."
Denver Rocky Mountain News

"Randall is tough but sensitive...Family Honor has the Parker trademarks of crisp dialogue and wit."
San Antonio Express-News

"Robert B. Parker commands recognition for his long service in the genre trenches. He's an assured stylist; his 26 books featuring the mythic Boston private detective, Spenser, are a fixture of pulp culture...[Spenser] punches like Jake La Motta, shoots like Mickey Spillane, cooks like the Galloping Gourmet, makes love like Warren Beatty and talks like an English Lit professor."
Star Tribune

"It's a swell read, and one that promises future installments as well as a meeting between Randall and Spenser. They both work Boston—it's inevitable. And to be anticipated."
Daily News (New York)

"Sunny is an entirely likeable character...surrounded by an even more interesting and amusing supporting cast."
St. Petersburg Times

"A magnetic new gumshoe..."
People Magazine (Page-turner of the week)

"It all works out as you know it will but never exactly how you think it might, which is one enduring source of satisfaction in reading Parker...Parker moves with practiced ease...Long before the end of Family Honor, it's clear that he has another winner."
The Boston Globe

"Robert Parker's latest Boston-based PI creation extraordinaire...An easy going, easy-to-read Parker is just right fir a hot summer afternoon when a Dashiell Hammett can seem a dash dense."
The Christian Science Monitor

"Is Sunny a female Spenser? No. Well, then, is she a female Parker? Only in the sense that we all, if we're any good, assume the best characteristics of all genders as we grow. This is Parker, then, softened, sharp, bright as ever."
The Hartford Courant

"And those who have never read Robert B. Parker will have a chance to watch a master of the genre at work, writing with uncanny skill."
Chicago Sun-Times

"Nothing makes a mystery reader happier than when a good author takes a good series, does a little literary abracadabra, and comes up with a new private eye and a potential series. And yet—for joy!—leverything remains the same...Readers who consume Spenser will love Sunny...Parker knows a good thing when he writes it."
USA Today

"A bravura performance, this novel launches what promises to be a series for the ages."
Publishers Weekly

"Parker has come up with another winning team."
School Library Journal

Buy the book

paperback | Putnam | 1999 | ISBN: 9780399145667


Chapter One

One of the good things about being a woman in my profession is that there's not many of us, so there's a lot of work available. One of the bad things is figuring out where to carry the gun. When I started as a cop I simply carried the department-issue 9-mm on my gun belt like everyone else. But when I was promoted to detective second grade and was working plainclothes, my problems began. The guys wore their guns on their belts under a jacket, or they hung their shirt out over it. I didn't own a belt that would support the weight of a handgun. Some of them wore a small piece in an ankle holster. But I am 5'6" and 115 pounds, and wearing anything bigger than an ankle bracelet makes me walk as though I were injured. I also like to wear skirts sometimes and skirt-with-ankle-holster is just not a good look, however carefully coordinated. A shoulder holster is uncomfortable, and looks terrible under clothes. Carrying the thing in my purse meant that it would take me fifteen minutes to find it, and unless I was facing a really slow assailant, I would need to get it out quicker than that. My sister Elizabeth suggested that I had plenty of room to carry the gun in my bra. I have never much liked Elizabeth.

At the gun store, the clerk wanted to show me a LadySmith. I declined on principle, and bought a Smith & Wesson .38 Special with a two-inch barrel. With a barrel that short you could probably miss a hippopotamus at thirty feet. But any serious shooting I knew anything about took place at a range of about three feet, and at that range the two-inch barrel was fine. I wore my .38 Special on awider-than-usual leather belt in a speed holster at the small of my back under a jacket.

Which is the way I was wearing it on an early morning at the beginning of September as I drove through a light rain up a winding half-mile driveway in South Natick, dressed to the teeth in a blue pant suit, a white silk tee shirt, a simple gold chain, and a fabulous pair of matching heels. I was calling on a lot of money. The driveway seemed to be made of crushed seashells. There were bright green trees along each side, made even greener by the rain. Flowering shrubs bloomed in serendipitous places among the trees. The whole landscape, refracted slightly by the rain, made me think of Monet. At the last curve in the driveway the trees gave onto a rolling sweep of green lawn, upon which a white house sat like a great gem on a jeweler's pad. The vast front was columned, and the Palladian windows seemed two stories high. The drive widened into a circle in front of the house, and then continued around back where, no doubt, unsightly necessities like the garage were hidden.

As soon as I parked the car a black man wearing a white coat came out of the house and opened the door for me. I handed him one of my business cards.

"Ms. Randall," I said. "For Mr. Patton."

"Yes, ma'am," the black man said. "Mr. Patton is expecting you."

He preceded me to the door and opened it for me. A goodlooking black woman in a little French maid's outfit waited in the absolutely massive front hallway.

"Ms. Randall," the man said and handed the maid my card.

She took it without looking at it and said, "This way, please, Ms. Randall."

The foyer was very air-conditioned, even though the rainy September day was not very hot. The maid walked briskly ahead of me, her heels ringing on the stone floor. If her shoes were as uncomfortable as mine, she was as stoic about it as I was. My heels rang on the stone floor, too. The foyer was decorated with some expensively framed landscape paintings, which were hideous, but probably made up for it by costing a lot. Through the French doors at the far end of the foyer I could see a croquet lawn and, beyond that, a more conventional lawn that sloped down to the river at the far bottom.

The maid opened a door near the end of the foyer and stood aside. I stepped in. The air-conditioning was even more forceful than it had been in the foyer. The room was a man's study, and it absolutely howled of decorator. Bookshelves were filled with leather-bound books artfully arranged. The walls were done in a dark burgundy. The drapes matched the walls but with a golden triangular pattern in them. There was a fireplace that I could have stood upright in on the wall opposite. There was a fire in it. The ceiling was far above my head. There was a massive reddish wooden desk along the left wall of the room with Palladian windows opening behind it. The deep colorful rugs had been woven somewhere in the far east. A huge globe of the world was on its own dark wooden stand near the fireplace. It was lit from within. Above the fireplace was a formal portrait of a good-looking woman with smooth blond hair and the contemptuous smile of a well-fed house cat.

The maid marched across the rug and put my card on the desk and announced, "Ms. Randall."

The man behind the desk said, "Thank you, Billie," and the maid turned and marched out past me and closed the door. The man looked at my card for a little while without picking it up, and then he looked up at me and smiled. It was an effective smile and I could tell that he knew it. The little crinkles at his eyes made him look kind though wise, and the parentheses around his mouth gave him a look of firm resolve.

"Sunny Randall," he said, almost as if he were speaking to himself. Then he rose and came around the desk. He was athletic-looking, taller than my ex-husband, with blue eyes and a healthy outdoor look about him. He put his hand out as he walked across the carpet.

"Brock Patton," he said.

"How very nice to meet you," I said.

He stood quite close to me as we shook hands, which allowed him to tower over me. I didn't step back.

"Where did you get a name like Sunny Randall?" he said.

"From my father," I said. "He was a great football fan and I guess there was some football person with that name."

"You guess? You don't know?"

"I hate football."

He laughed as if I had said something precocious for a little girl. "Well, by God, Sunny Randall, you may just do."

"That's often the case, Mr. Patton."

"Ill bet it is."

Patton went around his desk and sat. I took a seat in front of the desk and crossed my legs and admired my shoes for a moment. Of course they were uncomfortable; they looked great. Patton appeared to admire them, too.

"Well," he said after a time.

I smiled.

"Well," he said again. "I guess there's nothing to do but plunge right in."

I nodded.

"My daughter has run off," he said.

I nodded again.

"She's fifteen," he said.


"My wife and I thought somehow a woman might be the best choice to look for her."

"You're sure she's run away?" I said.


"She ever do this before?"


"Where did she run to before?"

"She didn't get far. Police picked her up hitchhiking with three other kids . . . boys. We were able to keep it out of the papers."

"Why does she run away?" I said.

Patton shook his head slowly, and bit his lower lip for a moment. Both movements seemed practiced.

"Teenaged girls," he said.

"I was a teenaged girl," I said.

"And I'll bet a cute one, Sunny."

"Indescribably," I said, "but I didn't run away."

"Well, of course, not all teenagers . . ."


"Yes. This is what she ran away from."

"Oh, well, I suppose . . . everything is fine here."

I nodded. To my right the fireplace crackled and danced. No heat radiated from it. The air-conditioned room remained cold. The windows fogged with condensation in which the rain streaked little patterns.

"So why did she run away?"

"Really, Sunny," Patton said. "I am trying to decide whether to hire you to find her."

"And I'm trying to decide, Brock, if you do offer me the job, whether I wish to take it."

"Awfully feisty," Patton said, "for someone so attractive."

I decided not to blush prettily. He stood suddenly.

"Do you have a gun, Sunny?"


"With you?"


"Can you shoot it?"


"I'm something of a shooter myself," Patton said. "I'd like to see you shoot. Do you mind walking outside in the rain with me?"

Other than the fact that my hair would get wet and turn into limp corn silk? But there was something interesting happening here. I wasn't sure what it was, but I didn't want to miss it.

"I don't mind," I said.

He took an umbrella from a stand beside the French doors behind his desk. He opened the doors and we went out into the rain. He held the umbrella so that I had to put my arm through his to stay under cover. We walked across the soft wet grass, my heels sinking in uncomfortably. Maybe there should be a new rule about wearing heels when I was working. Maybe the new rule would be, never. On the far side of the croquet lawn, and shielded from it by a grove of trees, was an open shed with a sort of counter across one side and a wood-shingled roof. We went to the shed and under the roof. Patton closed the umbrella. He took a key from his pocket and opened a cabinet under the counter and took out something that looked like a small clay frisbee.

"What have you for a weapon," Patton said.

I took out my .38 Special.

"Well, very quick," he said. "Think you could hit anything with that?"

There was a test going on, and I didn't know quite what was being tested.

"Probably," I said.

He smiled down at me.

"I doubt that you can hit much with that thing," he said.

"What is your plan?" I said.

"I'll toss this in the air, and you put a bullet through it."

If I did that using a handgun with a two-inch barrel it would be by accident. He knew it.

"I'll toss it up here," he said, "it's safe to fire toward the river."

He looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I nodded. He smiled as if to himself and stepped out of the shed and tossed the disk maybe thirty feet straight up into the air. I didn't move. The disk hit its zenith and came down and landed softly on the wet grass about eight feet beyond the shed. And lay on its side. I walked out of the shed, and over to the disk, and standing directly above it, I put a bullet through the middle of it from a distance of about eighteen inches. The disk shattered. Patton stared at me.

"I don't need to be able to shoot something falling through the air thirty feet away," I said. "This gun is quite effective at this range, Brock, which is about the only range I'll ever need it for."

I put the gun away. Patton nodded and stared at the disk fragments for a moment or two; then he picked up the umbrella and opened it and handed it to me.

"Come back in," he said. "I'd like you to meet my wife."

Then he walked away bareheaded in the nice rain. I followed him, alone under the umbrella.