Spenser is a wisecracking former boxer turned private investigator and he is just settling into his new office when enters Harv Shepard, a beleaguered businessman who is looking for someone to help locate his runaway wife. So begins Promised Land, the fourth novel by Robert Parker, that follows the exploits of his cerebral but tough character, detective Spenser. Why Harv Shepard's wife abandoned her family and exactly where she has gone comprise only half the intrigue in this story, though Spenser soon discovers that Harv is a man in deep trouble, involved with a crooked loan shark and tangled in an ailing business venture.
The real reason we keep turning the pages of Promised Land is because of the compelling figure cut by detective Spenser. The way in which he gets the information he gets about the case from police detectives, bartenders, and local thugs—Spenser's unique bracing blend of irony and sincerity that almost never encourages the people he encounters to really like him—is as interesting as the information he gets.
Spenser is clever, often hilarious and his quips have something more than self-amusement as their end. Beneath the air of insouciant detachment and irony is a quixotic concern, as witnessed by his often self-sacrificing actions. The people Spenser meets often made predictable mistakes, falling into the same traps he has seen countless others fall into, and out of which they are mistakenly sure they can get out. Although he is weary of watching this pageant of human weakness and failure time and again, Spenser cannot help but become emotionally entangled in his cases, no matter how numbingly predictable they may be.