When Fourteen Year Old Mattie Sullivan Asks Spenser To Look Into Her Mother S Murder, He S Not Completely Convinced By Her Claim That The Police Investigation Four Years Ago Was Botched Mattie Is Gruff, Street Smart, And Wise Beyond Her Years, Left To Care For Her Younger Siblings And An Alcoholic Grandmother In A Dilapidated Apartment In South Boston But Her Need For Closure And Her Determination To Make Things Right Hit Spenser Where He Lives They Re The Very Characteristics He Abides By Mattie Believes The Man Convicted Of The Crime Is Innocent And Points Spenser To The Southie Toughs Who She Saw Carrying Her Mother Away Hours Before Her Murder Neither The Boston PD Nor The Neighborhood Thugs Are Keen On His Dredging Up The Past, But As Spenser Becomes Involved In The Case, He Starts To Realize That Mattie May Be Onto Something Spenser Will Need Hawk S Help To Find Peace For Mattie A Job That S Dangerous Than He Ever Thought After Robert Parker passed away his estate hired writer Ace Atkins to continue the Spenser series of detective novels The first one by Mr Atkins is titled Robert B Parker s Lullaby an awkward name if I ever heard one, but good marketing I guess At first I wasn t going to read it not out of any misplaced loyalty to Mr Parker, but because when one writer creates and writes a book or a series s he puts his her own distinct voice to it which is something almost impossible to duplicate Since Sherlock Holmes entered the public domain not a single writer who has tried to write new material about him has completely caught Arthur Conan Doyle s voice That s not to say all of the new stories about Holmes are bad, but they do not sound like they were written by Doyle When Rex Stout passed away and his estate hired Robert Goldsborough a family friend who d never written ANYTHING before to continue Stout s brilliant series about detectives Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin Goldsborough s books were a travesty I read the first two and could not believe that Goldsborough had ever even read any of the original material by Stout Even Robert Parker himself had a problem with this Mr Parker was authorized to finish the novel Poodle Springs, sequel to one of the most brilliant detective novels of all time Raymond Chandler s The Big Sleep, which was left unfinished after Chandler s death The part of Poodle Springs that Chandler wrote before his death was pure genius Chandler elevated detective novels literally into classic literature The roughly half of the book that Robert Parker wrote to finish the novel was very good in itself, but the two men s voices were so different you could tell exactly where Chandler left off and Parker picked up If someone had drawn a line between the chapters it couldn t have been obvious who wrote what.So given this especially the garbage Goldsborough had made of one of my two favorite series I had no intention of reading a Spenser novel written by anyone but Robert Parker Except my daughter and I made one of our trips to the local bookstore where we d gather a lapful of books and magazines get a couple of chairs next to each other, and sit there reading exchanging comments on what we d picked up On a whim I picked up Lullaby not to read, but just to flip through and see just how bad it was.Only it wasn t bad In fact, the voice of the book was dead on sounding exactly like Robert Parker More, the characters acted precisely like the characters as written by Parker not once did I feel like I was reading about imposters, this was Spenser, Hawk, Susan and all the other wonderful people in this series I wound up getting caught up in it and read half the novel in the store before my daughter and I had to leave and just like the books written by Parker it made me laugh and smile I finally got hold of a copy from my library to finish it and you know what Not only did Atkins duplicate Parker s voice not only did he write the characters of the series true to the way Parker wrote them Atkins actually wrote a Spenser novel that was better than the one or two weaker entries in the series that Parker himself had written I m still amazed, but I m also looking forward to the next Spenser novel as written by Ace Atkins.Just as a footnote the first book Parker wrote in the Spenser series is titled The Godwulf Manuscript and is not one of the strongest in the series It s not bad, but it felt like Parker was still finding his footing with this new series It s the second book, God Save The Child, in which Parker really starts to hit his stride with the series and is the one I d recommend reading first After that the books are a little fun if read in order as the characters do grow over the course of the series Raymond Chandler and Rex Stout were better writers then Robert Parker, but for sheer fun Parker even has these two Masters beat. Spenser holds an odd but prominent position in my landscape of beloved characters Usually, my favorites are a motley collection of the damaged, disreputable, and deadly Spenser s my exception, the genuinely heroic character I genuinely like, who comes across successfully as both a real character in his own right and a somewhat aspirational figure for the rest of us No surprise, then, that my favorite book in the series is the odd Early Autumn, where the plot is feather light and the focus is all on how Spenser lives his life At his best, Spenser s practical idealism, humor, and low key Renaissance Man like ability to do a lot of things reasonably but not ridiculously well made him one of the most appealing first person narrators out there But later Robert Parker books coasted on Spenser s charms, and I remember them mostly as a handful of one liners surrounded by a lot of flab, with Spenser s distinctiveness getting buried.Ace Atkins s Lullaby, on the other hand, reminds me of the finals week where, to cope with exams, I read a Spenser novel every day It s brisk and funny, but with enough moral weight to give it depth and shadows.Mattie, a hard edged fourteen year old from Southie, hires Spenser for the steep price of a dozen donuts to look into her mother s murder from a few years back She s convinced that the man who was convicted for it was an innocent, hard luck schmuck in the wrong place at the wrong time, especially since she herself saw her mother being forced into a car by two entirely different men Spenser is less sure, but he admires the girl s grit I like to think I would have recognized the True Grit homage, but Kemper got there first, so I ll never know for sure and wants to help get her some closure, which a surprisingly tolerable Susan warns may be both difficult and temporary.Spenser s relationship with Mattie is the heart of the novel, and Atkins does some interesting things with it He takes her under his wing like he did Paul, but he can t give her the same things if anything, she s too self reliant Paul had to make himself grow up Mattie has to, if she can, grow back into childhood, at least for a little while It s poignant without being overplayed, and Mattie s combination of vulnerability and toughness makes good use of Susan s psychological skills, as she s able to help Spenser dissect his own feelings about Mattie and it might mean for her to move forward All of this gets neatly played in a minor chord with the Broz family what does it mean to always be the kid in contrast to your father There s good material for Hawk here, too, as Atkins trims some of the chumminess away from his partnership with Spenser and fits in a dynamic that crackles rather than comforts view spoiler Hawk s conversation with Mattie about his mother s murder, especially his flat admission of the pleasure he took in revenge, is a particularly great moment, and one that s both dramatic and restrained it s all just information he s passing on to her, and it s a conversation between the two of them that leaves Spenser temporarily on the outside hide spoiler Spenser has to channel the father instincts that he has less practice with than most men of a certain age The object is Mattie Sullivan who walks into his office one winter day and sizes him up for the job of finding the real killer of her mother a crime that took place four years previously Mattie is a hard scrabble Southy Those unfamiliar with Boston might want to do a little online research At age fourteen she is in charge of what remains of her family two younger sisters and an alcoholic grandmother Mattie is stubborn, determined, street wise, and foul tongued This, no surprise, charms Spenser into taking the case.As Spenser looks into the case for a fee of a dozen doughnuts he follows a trail that leads to old adversaries, the Boston drug kingpins, and the FBI Atkins does what you would expect from someone writing a story involving another author s Robert B Parker character He hits the identifiable style notes including food, clothing, and cultural references What was surprising was how he handled the rhythm of the dialogue not an easy thing to do well The plot is slightly sappy and drawn out, but we get to have time with familiar characters including Susan, Hawk, Quirk, Belson and Vinnie What brought this up close to 4 for me was the reading by Joe Mantegna, who played Spenser several times and has been the reader for most of the audio books. By chance I got my hands on a few continuation novels on the work of the late Robert B Parker.This one is about Spenser the female friendly macho Private investigator who has his heart in the right place This one is about a 14 year old girl whose mother has been killed 4 years earlier and is very sure that they locked up the wrong person for the deed Spenser goes out of his way to humour the kid and finds out very soon that she is right and that the forces of evildoer are about to get really nasty on his lovely shaped behind, as Susan Spensers everlasting love interest would immediately admit Enter Hawk, Spensers best friend, who would be a thug but instead is a force of good to be reckoned with With Sixkill out on business it is them who take on a return of organised crime covered by some interesting new partners.The banter is great, the food is great, Susan hot as always, Hawk menacing, Spenser amusing himself until he gets angry, Pearl very much in for some attention The whole gang is back and it is enjoyable enough I would dare to say that some of Parkers own books were less enjoyable than this first attempt at continuation by the talented Ace Atkins.Well recommended if you enjoyed the Robert B Parker series This one is up there quality wise. When I finished Robert B Parker s SIxkill last year it was a sad moment as author Parker had died in 2010 and this was billed as the last Spenser novel I have been a fan of Parker s Boston detective for the life of the series, which began in 1973 and stretched to 40 novels Like any fan relationship mine had it s ups and downs Parker wrote to a formula, no denying that, but it was a witty, dialogue driven scenario The books were sweet confections, not too long and always entertaining They were, in general, also excellent examples of that aging genre, the private eye novel Parker did a PhD on the detective novel Late last year I read that the Parker estate had contracted to have the series continued and they had chosen the improbably monikered Ace Atkins Hope springing eternal I looked up Mr Atkin s credentials and discovered he was the author of some well reagarded noirish novels Then I waited for the results Last week the first fruit of this partnership emerged the unwieldy title of Robert B Parker s Lullaby I understand the promotional need for that so on to the book The only urgent question is does Mr Atkins succeed in his task and to that I answer yes, with some typical fan quibbles Lullaby is a typical and this is a compliment Spenser novel A larger cast of characters than usual show up but they are all members of the long Spenser backstory Spenser s famous quips and the banter with his friend and partner, Hawk, are in abundance And for the fans also present is Susan Silverman, Detectives Belsen and Quirk, various Boston low life hoodlums and Pearl the wonder dog The story is classic and well within the series s theme of justice reclaimed My quibbles are few 1 the book goes on a bit longer than necessary, perhaps due to that large cast of characters 2 Spenser seems to spend time than usual describing his wardrobe and 3 some of the dialog, not all, but some, seems a little stilted One thing I loved is that Boston shows up in descriptive mode than was usual in Parker s books Perhaps this was because Parker lived in the city and it was backdrop for him Atkins makes some places important to the plot, particularly Southie, and as an ex Bostonian I loved that So, Spenser lives and a fine thing it is. Pushed off reading this for a long time as I wasn t sure whether I needed any non Parker Spenser in my life Truth is that the last 15 20 Spenser books were essentially self parodies written to a fairly strict template and I pretty much loved them all, so what did I have to lose Turns out, very little This reads almost exactly like a late period Spenser book All the tropes and in jokes show up as expected and the jokes are just as cheap and the action is just as sharp There is absolutely no need for me to read any of these, but I may anyway because they re fun Spenser is fun Hawk is fun Susan is fun Weirdly, my favourite thing about this was that it was around 120 pages longer than Parker s last few books I still read the whole thing in an afternoon, there was just to enjoy than usual. Ace Atkins isn t Robert B ParkerWhile the formula is similar, the characters aren t the same It s hard to pin down, because sometimes he has mannerisms spot on, then they slip away in the next paragraph Susan isn t Susan She tries too hard, and in the wrong way, to bring out feelings from Matti She doesn t help the plot along at all If Parker had her play a part in a story, it s because there was a clear role for her to play Hawk slips in and out of character We have always known Hawk would always be there for Spenser we don t need Hawk to say that he loves Spenser but we also don t need to hear him say he doesn t We don t need to harp on Hawk only is there for Hawk Maybe it will get better in the next novel The last paragraph indicates that there will be a a next novel something else Parker never needed to do. Robert Parker wrote a Spenser P.I book almost every year since 1973 until his death in 2010 He was extremely influential on the P.I genre, but in his later years his quality was sacrificed for cash cow possibilities he suddenly started publishing two to three books a year after he turned 65 Ace Atkins was tapped by the family estate to continue the Spenser series, and he succeeds fairly well I felt like Atkins achieved the Spenser feel, although he s of a golden retriever type writer and HE S GONNA DO IT JUST LIKE PARKER ONLY MOOR BETTER Ingredients to a Spenser novel appearance by bestie Hawk, workout buddy, kick ass, deadly, sharp dressing black dude Please ignore the traditional stereotype role Susan, Spenser s Harvard educated long standing life partner, except they never say, life partner, because that would be lame Susan has an eating disorder undiagnosed , occasionally worries about Spenser and enjoys sexy times Pearl the Wonder dog doughnuts with and without sprinkles cop friends Atkins gives us all of them Belson, Quirk, and FBI guy, Epstein commentary on Boston Here, Harvard area and Southie area cooking episodes I think there was something with sausage here Boston Red Sox random literature references bonus friends in this book the smokin hot I hear it as one word Rita and Vinnie the shooterAtkins gives many nods to prior incidents in the series, such as the time he and Susan separated, the time he shot Gerry Broz, the cases involving Joe Broz, the cases involving Vinnie, the mentions of his semi adopted kid Paul He also updates the characters Slightly Susan actually eats Although it s mostly egg whites, lettuce and a noodle.I felt the 14 year old Mattie, the girl who hires Spenser, was somewhat inappropriately characterized I finally mentally rewrote her age to upper teens and tried my best to ignore it Basically, she acts like a contemporary to Spenser and Hawk Spenser also shows an amazing amount of bad judgement in this book in regards to her I think Parker would have also given us a heroic ending without the double climax This feels movie scriptish at the end Overall, pretty fun Definitely a step up from the 2000 era Spenser novels when he was clearly ghostwritten phoning it in nearing the end of his career Who knows I may even pick up the next I liked it better than Atkins Colson series P.S Richard D don t read this because Spenser winks ALL THE TIME To everyone FBI, bartenders, 9 year olds and bad guys He s an equal opportunity winker. I just finished Lullaby by Ace Atkins I was hesitant to begin the book, and it sat dusty on my bookshelf for months You see, Lullaby is Ace Atkins first stab at a Spenser novel My favorite author, Robert B Parker, wrote almost 40 of them, but since his death in 2010, fans of the Boston gumshoe have gone without I m happy to report that, although Parker may be gone, Spenser is alive and well Atkins has captured the essence of the smooth talking, hard hitting, system bucking private investigator I came to love In this latest case, Spenser is approached by fourteen year old Mattie Sullivan to investigate the brutal murder of her mother a couple years earlier The deal is sealed for a box of donuts, and Spenser starts knocking on doors and shaking things up in Southie The tale weaves in the familiar characters of Susan, Hawk, Pearl the Wonder Dog, Vinnie, and Joe Broz, and it includes plenty of wise cracking banter, gun fights, good eats, and a dash of shrink talk Kudos to Atkins for undertaking the challenge and for remaining true to Parker s classic It was a joy to read and I hope that there are to come.
Ace Atkins is the author of eight novels, including his latest, Infamous, from G.P Putnam s Sons.A former journalist who cut his teeth as a crime reporter in the newsroom of The Tampa Tribune, he published his first novel, Crossroad Blues, at 27 and became a full time novelist at 30.While at the Tribune, Ace earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a
- 310 pages
- Robert B. Parkers Lullaby (Spenser, #40)
- Ace Atkins
- 16 August 2017 Ace Atkins