I’ll be honest: I was not in a real hurry to pick up the Zombie Parker titles, including this book, a Spenser novel written by Ace Atkins. However, a piece about it and its author in Mystery Scene magazine changed my mind. So I started watching for it in the library. As you might know, I found it. And I was pleased.
Atkins does his best to capture old Spenser novels from the pre 1990-something era, where the books had some depth and lyricism to them. The plot: Spenser is hired (for a box of doughnuts) by a fourteen-year-old girl from South Boston who wants Spenser to investigate the murder of her mother four years before. He looks into the murder, which the police have already solved, and finds that the man in prison probably did not do it. But once he gets that notion, finding out who did puts Spenser and the girl in jeopardy from scary individuals in the crime syndicates and whatnot.
As I said, it’s a good throwback to the old style Spenser novels, before Parker stacked them up with nothing but dialog. Atkins adds depth and, get this, new allusions. He throws in references to previous books and characters, but also peppers the book with quotes and references to other material. I dunno, maybe Parker stopped reading, or maybe he thought his readers were more interested in references to the Spenser mythos (and now that there are two authors in the field, it has achieved mythos), but I find the new allusions satisfying and fresh.
Sadly, though, Atkins does go to the established baddie well much like Parker would have done (Gerry Broz plays an important role in the plot), but it’s not the sort of book where Spenser knows the answers but has to work out a solution. Instead, he, Hawk, and the girl spend a lot of the book trying to figure out what’s going on, and that makes the story move along well and keeps one going.
It didn’t take me just a night to read like they did in the old days–the old days are gone, as are the short Parker entries in the series–but I did read it in only two nights. I’m looking forward to the next entries in the series more than I have in some time, although I’ll probably go with library copies. But if Atkins–or other designated heirs–keeps this up, I might take to buying them again.
Books mentioned in this review: