Monday, May 7, 2012

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby - A Spenser Novel - Ace Atkins

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.


"Auntie" sezzzzzz... said...

I'm not familiar with this series. But so glad it is being given a longer life, and a proper one too. Not being messed with... :-)

NoraB said...

And Robert Parker got his jump start finishing Dashiell Hammett's books. Lovely synergy.

Parker o rings said...

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Anonymous said...

I'm about half way through and enjoying it - its very well done. Has anyone else picked up that what he is doing is working with the Mattie Ross character from True Grit? The reference to Susan reading a book written by Charles Portis is the give away. And the girl is 14 - is called Mattie - has lost a paernet to violence - is taking care of her family - is smart and tough and is out for justice/revenge? I don't mind any of this - even if Spencer has to play Rooster! Heck - why not? What is fun is geting the anlysis of Mattie's character - who she is, what she is and why - and how all of this will affect her going forward. We don't get much of that in True Grit - have to reach our own conclusions - but its what the Coen's were trying to address in the last scene of the movie where we see what she has become. I'm looking forward to Susan's comments and the rest of the book.Enjoy.

Sverige said...

I was a little fearful as I started reading Lullaby. After seeing what Michael Brandman did to Jesse Stone I worried that Spenser would be lost as well. Ace Atkins work is reminiscent of the early Spenser. A bit more gritty and the writing less refined. The sentences were choppy with too many "I said" and "she said" as Atkins tried to copy Parker's melding of many short statements rather than descriptive sentences. Choppy. I felt that the characters had lost a little of what Parker had developed them into, but not so much in a bad way. The intimacy of Spenser's relationship with Susan seemed to have lost ground, becoming more about sex than two people who loved and supported each other unconditionally. Again, it was like the early Spenser books, with tight relationships, but dialed back in ways. We'll see how Atkins does as he writes more and settles into the characters and makes Spenser his own. He did well for a first trip out wearing another author's characters. This was a Spenser novel. People who like Spenser novels should like this one too. It was a quick read that moved along sprightly.

chickie girl said...

2 mis-spellings of scally cap -- in the book is scully cap.
get your southie right!

chickie girl said...

loved the book, but mis-spelled scally cap . in the book is scully cap - get your southie straight!