Tight prose style – check
Well executed fist-fights and shoot-outs – check
Smart aleck asides – check
Bad guys, both honorable and heinous – check
Sexy lived-in relationship with Susan Silverman – check
Great banter with Hawk – check
Macho yet sensitive knight errant of the streets back in prime – double check
In Lullaby, Ace Atkins has brought back everything we love about Robert B. Parker’s Boston P.I. Spenser, and he makes it look seamless and easy. Friends of Ace’s were excited when Parker’s widow, Joan, picked him to continue the series. I can’t think of a bigger fan or a better author with the necessary skills to pull it off. Ace gives us Parker’s voice without being a mimic.
Lullaby starts with chivalry. Spenser is hired by a fourteen year-old, foul-mouthed Southie girl to find out who really murdered her mother four years ago. In true Spenser form, he charges her a dozen doughnuts. The case puts him smack the middle of an alignment of organized crime, involving one of his major nemeses, The Broz family.
Atkins has a knack for creating worlds both real and legendary, many times overlapping the two. He gives us a feel for Boston that Parker’s sparse approach sometimes failed to convey. Ace even lifts part of infamous Southie gangster Whitey Bulger’s true story for part of the plot. It’s the world of Spenser he truly brings out with a twist, bringing out classic cops and crooks like Captain Martin Quirk and Vinnie Morris. Hawk is his usual bad ass and we learn something about his past. Through them and the changes of Boston scenery, he gives pathos to both heroes and villains trying to find footing in changing times.
And another thing- Food. Atkins has Spenser cook up a Andouille sausage and grits recipe I can’t wait to try out.
Ace Atkins takes the reins of the Spenser series with self-assured ease. He’s not out to prove anything, just to tell us a solid hard boiled tale with a hero many readers love. He not only gives us a voice that reminds us of the kind of book Parker wrote in his prime, like Judas Goat or Early Autumn, he also proves he’s the right man for the job. I’m looking forward to seeing him put Spenser and Hawk back on the streets next year.
MysteryPeople welcomes Ace Atkins to BookPeople to speak about and sign Lullaby and his new Quinn Colson novel The Lost Ones on Wednesday, June 6, 7p.