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Bookends: Spenser’s new writer has read the Parker Cliff Notes well November 26, 2014

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Spenser’s new writer has read the Parker Cliff Notes well

By Dan Davidson

May 14, 2014

– 837 words –


Robert B. Parker’s LullabyLullaby

By Ace Atkins

Berkley Books

381 pages



What happens when a best selling author with a popular book series dies? Quite often the publisher would like to keep the sure thing going and will find someone to carry the torch. Sometimes, as with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, the end of a long saga has been plotted, but not written, and so the successor writer, Brandon Sanderson in that case, has the way mapped out for him. Other times, like V.C. Andrews and Robert Ludlum, the successor writers follow the general pattern of the creator’s work and branch off in new directions.

The late Dr. Parker probably wouldn’t mind what’s being done with three of his series. After all, he tackled the job of finishing one of Raymond Chandler’s unfinished novels and wrote an original Marlowe himself.

My first impression of Ace Atkins’ work is that he has studied the cliff notes for Parker very well. There will be snappy dialogue, with Spenser poking fun at people who think they are more important than they are. There will be suggestions that he and Susan are about to have hot sex, but that will happen behind bedroom doors closed to everyone except maybe Pearl the wonder dog. There will be other scenes with Susan where they discuss the case he is involved in and take a few swings at the meaning of life. There will be several scenes during which Spenser whips up some fabulous sounding concoction in his kitchen. There will be scenes during which he exercises – maybe a run or a session at the gym with the bags. There will be scenes that involve fisticuffs and gunplay.

Atkins has checked off all these boxes, giving us the feel of a genuine Parker for the most part.

There are some things that don’t quite come off though. Spenser’s trademark snappiness was almost too much in evidence, as if he were trying too hard. A lot of his barbs are directed more at other people and in this book there seemed to be a bit too much of it in the internal monologue.

The presentation of Hawk doesn’t quite work. The man is a blend of street tough and educated bon vivant, and his dialogue has generally bounced back and forth between hip patois and college diction. In this book he dresses and acts the part, but doesn’t speak it.

The final thing is something I noticed more because I half read and half listened to this book. When I’m reading and the dialogue gets rough I find I often glide over the words I don’t like to hear and move on with the story. I can’t do that when I’m hearing the book.

Joe Mantegna did a great job of reading the book, but there was a lot more blue language in it than I am used to finding in Spenser novels and, while I’m okay with using language that is appropriate to the setting and the people talking, I didn’t see where all of this helped the story the way it should. Certainly I know it affected my wife’s enjoyment of the book as we drove home a week ago.

Storywise, this is good Spenser territory. A 14 year old girl turns up in his office looking to hire him to find out who killed her mother four years earlier. There’s a guy doing time for the murder, and he probably deserves to be there for a number of other reasons, but she’s convinced this isn’t one of them.

Spenser is reminded of Paul, the boy he rescued and more or less fostered years ago, and he’s certain that Mattie Sullivan needs saving in another way. She’s a difficult client, living and raising her little sisters without much help from her alcoholic grandmother. She’s determined to see this through and it soon becomes clear that she has already raised enough dust by poking at things (a very Spenser-like approach) to put her life in danger.

Spenser takes the case and soon finds that he has attracted the attention of some old mob enemies, a very unsavory killer, and a hard nosed FBI type named Connor who is determined to make his name by taking down some of the same people Spenser is bothering. At one point, Connor actually has Spenser arrested and attempts to frame him in a drug deal. We can see that jousting with this guy will be a part of whatever future Atkins has in store for our hero.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book, and I can see myself picking up another one at some point. Atkins has already produced two more Spenser books over the last three years but, as he has three series out there under his own name, we may not see them as often as we did when Parker was in charge.









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