Shrink Rap

by Robert B. Parker

A Sunny Randall Novel

Melanie Joan Hall is a bestselling author in a bind. Her publisher needs her to tour on behalf of her newest blockbuster, and Melanie Joan needs a bodyguard-cum-escort to protect her from an overbearing ex-husband whose presence unnerves her to the point of hysteria. Sunny's cool demeanor, cop background, and P.I. smarts are an instant balm for the older woman. She begins to sense that Melanie Joan's ex—a psychotherapist—is not your basic stalker, and when an incident at a book signing leaves the ex bloodied and the author unconscious, it's clear the stakes are high. Deciding that the only way to crack the case is from the inside, Sunny enters therapy herself, only to discover some disturbing truths about herself...while putting her life on the line.

Gripping, nuanced, and filled with Parker's signature dialogue and psychological insight, Shrink Rap is a winner.


"Parker turns in his strongest mystery in years with Boston PI Sunny Randall's third focusing on an author's plight during her book tour, Parker writes about experiences close to his own, delivering sharp portraits of publishing types and fans...With layers of psychological revelation, plenty of action, the welcome return of Sunny's supporting crew...and as usual, prose as tight as a drumhead, this is grade-A Parker."
Publishers Weekly (starred)

"The title of Shrink Rap (Putnam, $24.95) is at once a witty reference to the substantive psychological themes in Robert B. Parker's third Sunny Randall novel and a flip disclaimer of any such serious intention. The smart plot has the Boston private eye on a national book tour with a best-selling author who is being stalked by her former husband, an unethical and possibly unhinged psychiatrist. The situation proves ideal for Parker's patented brand of knowing humor, yielding glossy snapshots of dithering book dealers, dollar-driven publishers and awe-struck fans, and one very nice full-length portrait of Melanie Joan Hall, a big-league author so shrewd about her career yet modest about her can't begrudge her her diamonds...Even at their lightest and brightest, the confidential exchanges between Sunny and her client are rich with insight into painful issues of marital control and emotional dominance."
The New York Times Book Review

"Parker's crackling tough-gal dialogue backs a story with plenty of intrigue and suspense. Minor characters add flavor to the stew, especially Spike, Randall's gay pal, who can floor a foe with a right hook or a one-liner. The 37th mystery from Parker zips by more quickly than a 50-minute hour on the couch. Bottom Line: Dandy Rap"
People (Page-turner of the week)

"What sets Shrink Rap its moments...of emotional complexity. The...chapter where Sunny returns home for dinner with her dysfunctional parents is mournful, droll, and disastrous, as is the scene where she loses her cool and behaves childishly toward Richie's new love...In the creepy climax of this mystery, Sunny risks all to catch Melvin in the midst of one of his dastardly breaches of professional behavior, but her inner demons continue to remain at large."
Washington Post Book World

"A fascinating examination of domination and submission written by a skilled veteran."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Sunny Randall...private eye, [is] as brainy as she is beautiful...Parker's trademark dialogue, always his strong suit, is as crisp and pungent as ever."
San Diego Union-Tribune

"Parker knows how to settle an old score better than his characters do—he's tougher, smarter, and funnier than all of them."
The Boston Globe

"Parker, as usual, mixes a rich stew of plot, characters and action. In one respect Parker's Randall novels read much like those of the better-known Spenser and the Jesse Stone series...And all three series aren't really about mystery and mayhem. They are about relationships and the problems all of us have in maintaining them."
Houston Chronicle

"Parker has always been a master storyteller, and the latest Randall novel, Shrink Rap, is no exception...Well plotted and fast paced, the Spenser-ette novels are a worthy addition to Parker's oeuvre."

"Fans will enjoy the crisp dialog, Sunny's investigations of her mind, and the matching of wits with a truly frightening villain. Highly recommended for all mystery collections."
Library Journal

"An intriguing look at the psychology of manipulation combined with a knockout plot that builds to a truly creepy, hair-raising climax."

Buy the book

paperback | Putnam | 2002 | ISBN: 9780399149306


I always loved Richie's hands. They looked like such man's hands. I knew that I was guilty of gross gender stereotyping, but I kept my mouth shut about it, and no one knew. His hands rested on the table between us, the right one on top of the left. They were still. Richie was always still. It was one of the things that had made it hard to be married to him. I knew intellectually that he loved me, but he was so contained and interior that I used to crave even the most unseemly display of feeling. He was still now, sitting across the table from me, telling me he'd met someone else. We were divorced. It was fine for him to see other people. I saw other people too. But this was a somebody else he'd met. This was more than seeing other people. This made me feel like my center had collapsed.

"Somebody, like walk into the sunset?" I said.

"She wants to get married," Richie said. "She has a right to that."

"And you?"

Richie shrugged. "I'm thinking about it."

"Three kids and a house in the western suburbs?"

"We haven't talked about that," Richie said.

"What about Rosie?" I said.

"She likes dogs."

I looked at the hamburger I had ordered. I didn't want it.

"Rosie would still want to visit," I said.

"I love Rosie," Richie said.

"Has Ms. Right met her?" I said.


"They get along?"

"Very well," Richie said. "Rosie loves her."

She does not.

"Rosie will remain my dog," I said.

Richie smiled at me. "We're not going to have a custody fight over a goddamn bull terrier, are we?"

"Not as long as we remember she's mine."

"She's ours," Richie said.

"But not hers."

"No. Mine and yours," Richie said. "She lives with you and visits me."

I nodded. Richie was quiet.

"How long have you been seeing Ms. Right?" I said.

"About three months."

"Three months."

Richie nodded.

"You're sleeping with her," I said.

"Of course."

"Do you love Ms. Right?" I said.

"Her name is Carrie."

"Do you love Carrie?"

"I don't know."

"And how are you going to find out?" I said.

"I don't know."

Richie had ordered a club sandwich, on whole wheat, toasted. He hadn't eaten any of it. The waitress stopped at our table.

"Is everything all right?" she said.

"Fine," Richie said.

"Can I get you anything else?"

"No," Richie said. "Check will be fine."

"Do you want me to have your food wrapped?" the waitress said.

"No thank you," Richie said.

The waitress looked at me. I shook my head. She put a check on the table and went away looking regretful. Richie and I looked at each other.

"Whaddya think?" he said.

I shook my head.

"I know," Richie said.

He looked at the check and took some bills out of his wallet and put them on the table.

"The thing is," he said, "I can't get past you."


"I mean, we're sort of spinning our wheels."

"You could call it that," I said.

"I mean this is a nice woman, and she's happy with who and what I am."

I nodded.

"But I can't get past you," Richie said.

"I face somewhat the same problem," I said.

"We need some kind of resolution, Sunny."

"I thought the divorce was supposed to be some kind of resolution," I said.

Richie smiled quietly. "I did too," he said.

"But it wasn't," I said.

"No. It wasn't."

"So what are we supposed to do?" I said.

"I'm serious about this woman."

I nodded. It was difficult for me to speak. The room around me seemed insubstantial, as if I were drifting in space.

"But," he said, "I can't imagine a life without you in it."

"So," I said. "What the hell is this, a warning that you're going to try?"

"I guess it is," Richie said.

The room was nearly empty. There was only one other table occupied, by three people calmly having lunch. The waitress stayed away from us. Discreet. I looked at the money that Richie had stacked neatly on top of the bill.

"I miss Rosie," Richie said.

"She misses you."

I was quiet. Richie was perfectly still, his hands folded motionless on the table. We were so silent that I was aware of his breathing across the table.

"Are we really talking about the dog here?" Richie said.

No," I said, "we goddamned sure are not."