Ceremony (Robert B. Parker novel)

Ceremony (Robert B. Parker novel)
1st edition
Author(s) Robert B. Parker
Country United States
Language English
Series Spenser
Genre(s) Detective fiction
Publisher Delacorte Press
Publication date 1982
Media type Hardcover, paperback
ISBN 0440011515, 0440109930
OCLC Number 7923917
Dewey Decimal 813/.54 19
LC Classification PS3566.A686 C4
Preceded by A Savage Place
Followed by The Widening Gyre

Ceremony is the ninth Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker, first published in 1982.



Spenser is hired by a successful insurance salesman to find his runaway 16 year-old daughter. He and his wife fear she has turned to prostitution.

Storyline summary

The book opens with Spenser and Susan Silverman talking with the Kyle's about their missing daughter, April. Mr. Kyle apparently saw her in the act of seducing a John, a man about his age. He's livid at the thought of his daughter working as a prostitute and voices his displeasure loudly. Spenser is clearly not interested in working for Mr. Kyle, and voices his displeasure. Encouraged by his lover, Susan, and the pleadings of Mrs. Kyle, Spenser takes the job, "for one dollar" from Mrs. Kyle.

Spenser roughs up some old neighborhood friends of April's. They tell him where they think she might be: with a friend, Amy, who fled a while earlier than April.

Spenser goes to see Amy. She is living in a 3-story home with a middle-aged man and tries to look the part of a happy, well-to-do housewife, though she is no more than sixteen. He gets no information from her, but is convinced she is hiding what she knows.

Next Spenser heads to a part of Boston called the Combat Zone (Boston's red-light district). There he asks pimps about April, with a photo he has of her. After roughing up one called Trumps, he learns to look for a pimp named "Red". One of Trump's hookers warns Spenser to watch his back after roughing up Trumps, because he hold grudges.

Spenser enlists the help of Hawk and heads back to the Combat Zone to find Red. They find him in a strip bar, but Trumps and two strong arms ambush Spenser before he can question him. Hawk arrives and takes out the two thugs and scares away Trumps. After some slapping from Hawk, Red discloses April's last known address.

Spenser and Hawk proceed to the address and find it in a filthy building, with other hookers as neighbors. It is dirty and small, but empty save for a photo of her parent's home hanging on the wall.

Amy is living with a man named "Mitchel". Spenser robs their house shortly before Thanksgiving. While there, he finds a pair of spare keys and has them copied. On the third floor, he finds a kiddie porn photo and movie studio. He leaves the house, leaving no evidence of his visit.

Hawk finds out that Red works for Tony Marcus. Questioning Trumps' hooker—the one that warned him earlier—he finds that April was transferred to a "Sheep Farm" in the city (a brothel where the patrons can indulge in kinky acts).

Undercover, Spenser find the Sheep Farm and busts April out of there, going through the madam and bouncer to do it. From April, Spenser discovers that she was moved there right after he talked to Amy. He tells April he won't force her to go back to her parents' if she doesn't want to. On a ruse to urinate, April flees Spenser's custody and evades him in the woods.

Spenser and Hawk visit Tony Marcus and strong-arm him into a deal where they can take April and bust Mitchell for kiddie porn. He agrees, but slugs Spenser at the end of their meeting. Hawk, who used to work for Marcus freelance, assures Spenser that he is good on his word.

With Susan and Hawk, Spenser visits Michel's house on a Friday night. After some reconnaissance, it is apparent he is having a party with numerous guests. They let themselves in via the locked front door via Spenser's duplicate spare keys. They force their way past the guard, knock him out and dump him behind the shrubs by the front porch.

Upon entering the living room, they see that they have happened upon not just any old party, but a full-fledged orgy. Most of the men are middle-aged or older and all the girls are young, most obviously younger than eighteen. After wandering through the throng of dancing and groping guests, they fail to find Amy, April or Mitchel. A recon of the second floor finds many couples engaged in sex, but not the party hosts.

They find all three on the third floor in the kiddie porn studio. Another man, a porn distributor, is also there with his henchman. Hawk overpowers the strongarm and holds the remaining attendees at bay with his gun. Spenser tells Susan to go with April back to the car. He instructs Amy to follow, but she refuses. As Spenser begins to drop the hammer on Mitchel, he hears Susan cry for him downstairs. He runs to her side, and Hawk follows, leaving Mitchel, Amy and the distributor and his thug unguarded, but unarmed.

Downstairs April yelled that Susan was trying to kidnap her and the partygoers attacked her. April separated herself from Susan by the time Spenser and Hawk arrive. A brawl breaks out with all the partygoers against Hawk and Spenser. Due to their superior strength, reflexes and training, they overpower all the attendees who come up against them, but just barely.

The police arrive just as the last partier goes down under Spensers blows (Spenser had tipped them off about a possible bust on a kiddie porn maker). After talking with the police and getting first aid for their wounds, Spenser and Hawk head back to the car. Susan is there with April, who came along willingly after the brawl. She came with the assurance that she wouldn't be forced to go back with her parents.

Spenser and Susan drop off Hawk and head back to his place. They talk with April about her options over an impromptu dinner. They decide to deliver April to Patricia Utley, a madam of an upscale brothel in New York. There, she will learn escort skills, make more money, and not have to turn more than one trick a night. Susan and April spend the night; April on the coach, Susan with Spenser. They think over their decision, not entirely happy with it, but realize it is probably the best thing for April, considering her volatile home environment.


  • Spenser: Boston private investigator
  • Hawk
  • Susan Silverman
  • Tony Marcus
  • Patricia Utley
  • Various extras

External links

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