Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins
Reviewed by Scott
With Cheap Shot, Ace Atkins continues to prove that Robert B. Parker’s Spenser character is in good hands. What makes this book stand out is that we are beginning to see Atkins’ own voice emerge in the series. While Spenser, Hawk, and Susan sound and act as we would expect, they are dealing with new themes and a new world which has begun encroaching on their old one.
Ace draws on his own football experience for Spenser’s latest case. He’s hired to figure out who is stalking the controversial player, Kinjo Heywood, of the New England Patriots. Things escalate when Kinjo’s son, Akira, is kidnapped. Spenser’s search for the perpetrators and Kinjo’s behavior (some of it an homage to the Glenn Ford 1956 crime drama, Ransom!) reveal that these incidents could be tied to a shooting that Kinjo was involved with.
Ace uses Cheap Shot to explore his own interests and add to Spenser’s Boston. Without interfering with the pace, he explores race, class, and the gun culture among professional athletics (don’t worry, Spenser’s psychologist girlfriend, Susan, is given the briefest time possible to analyze this). He also introduces us to some Russian mobsters for Spenser to add to his Rolodex of thugs.
Where Atkins truly makes his stand in Parker’s world is in his use of Zebulon Sixkill, the Cree Indian and former college football star whom Spenser has taken on as a protege. Without aging Spencer, Atkins uses Zebulon as a counterpoint in the youth versus maturity debate. This dynamic is perfectly displayed in a passage where the two are chasing some bad guys. Spenser is having trouble keeping up with Sixkill as they leap over fences, but needs to, in fear of what his rasher, younger sidekick might do. I hope to see more interaction between Sixkill and Hawk, Spenser’s bad ass ally who is also much older.
By now there should be no doubt that Ace Atkins is worthy of handling Spenser. He can write with Parker’s propulsive grace and deliver the voices of the characters with perfect pitch. He is also able to skillfully add modern social critiques and new character’s to Spenser’s world, much like Parker himself. Cheap Shot is a stupendous addition to the series for fans both young and old.
Ace Atkins will be reading from his new novel at MysteryPeople’s Noir at the Bar on Monday, May 12 at 7PM at Opal Divine’s. You can pre-order copies of Cheap Shot now, via bookpeople.com. The book will be on our shelves on May 6th.