Robert B. Parker passed away just over two years ago. With the blessings of his estate, Parker's iconic characters - Jesse Stone and Spenser will continue to live on the written page. Author Ace Atkins was chosen to continue the tale of Boston P.I. Spenser.
It's always a gamble for a publisher to have someone new take on the voice of a character so many have read and loved. I really enjoyed Ace Atkins' first book The Ranger last year (review here) and am eagerly awaiting the second. Atkins himself credits Parker with his direction in life.
"I got into writing crime fiction because of Bob Parker," Atkins says. "For my 21st birthday, my mom waited in line for an hour at a bookstore in Atlanta to get a signed copy of (Parker's) Double Deuce. It was the greatest birthday present ever, and it shaped what I ended up doing for a living. I wanted to grow up to be Robert Parker."
So I had a feeling that things might turn out okay...and I was right.
Fourteen year old Mattie Parker stops by Spenser's office, looking to hire him. Her mom was killed four years ago. Although there's a man doing time for her murder, Mattie says he didn't do it. She know who really did - she saw them. Something about the girl - mostly her attitude - radiates with Spenser, so look into her case. And he finds she might be right......
The trademark short snappy dialogue is there from page one and never lets up. Spenser's wry outlook, his witty wise cracking repartee with Hawk and his smooth as silk interactions with Susan all ring true. Spenser's love of food, drink, good music and literature are all lovingly continued and described.
Favourite characters make a return - Hawk is just as big and bad as ever, but Atkins gives him a soft spot that was unexpected. We really know nothing of Hawk's past. Mattie's plight leads him to reveal something Spenser wasn't even aware of after twenty odd years. Susan is just as stunning, sexy and wise as always. And Pearl the Wonder Dog hasn't changed a bit. Many characters from previous books are mentioned or appear in Lullaby.
So the characters, settings, actions and dialogue are all ringing true. But what about the plot? Well, it was just as good. Mattie was a tough, but vulnerable character in a tough situation. I wonder if she'll be brought back in future books, in the same way that Paul Giacomin was? Short chapters, lots of action and Spenser's unerring sense of justice made this a quick read that ended before I knew it.
Spenser lives on - the tough guy with a soft heart. Atkins has chosen to not tinker with the characters too much. Definitely the right decision. No, it's not Robert Parker, but it's really damn close. Kudos to Atkins - he's done a fantastic job. Fans of Spenser will want to pick this one up - and the next one. I will be.