Thursday, December 31, 2015

Robert B. Parker's Lullaby by Ace Atkins

First Sentence:  I spotted the girl even before she knocked on my door.
Tough, street-wise Mattie Sullivan hires Spenser to find her mother’s killer.  Even though a man was convicted, Mattie doesn’t believe he’s the killer.  Agreeing on a fee of doughnuts, literally, Spenser is intrigued enough to look into it.  When the trail leads to old advisories, drugs, and the FBI, Spenser, with the help of Hawk, know they need to keep Mattie safe and to find the answers.
Atkins does a very good job of capturing Parker.  All the elements that should be there; are there.  In addition to the standard cast of characters—it is nice that Atkins as made Susan rather more likable—Spenser’s client makes a definite impression as she’s a girl who’s had to grow up way too fast and is handling it.  An entire discussion could be held about Mattie in terms of our view of children growing up today, as opposed to how they grew up in the past and their different levels of responsibility.
One can also count on Spenser to trigger your hunger response—“I had envisioned a filet, medium rare, with creamed spinach and mashed potatoes.”  He is also the single greatest representative for the Boston Tourist Board possible.  You are in the city with him; everyplace from the roughest neighborhoods, to the best.  But it’s his inclusion of dining spots that is particularly fun; Locke-Ober, Legal Seafood and, a particularly favorite, Union Oyster House; the oldest restaurant in Boston—“A big steaming bowl of clam chowder arrived with a thick wedge of cornbread.  The heavens opened up.  The angels reappeared.”—down to Dunkin’ Donuts.
Another retained element is Spenser’s sartorial descriptions—“Vinnie wore a navy cashmere topcoat with a glen plain suit underneath.  His dress shirt was a blue-and-white stripe, and his tie a light purple.”  Rather than interrupt the flow of the story, or simply seem to be fill, these descriptions serve to tell one a bit about the personality of the character:  clothes make the man.
      A nice segue in the story is a comparison of Mattie and two other troubled people Spenser helped in the past; Paul and Z.  New readers won’t feel lost by these references as sufficient backstory is provided.  However, this reference does help to cement Spenser’s image as a knight errant.  But he’s no Don Quiote with Sancho Panza, in the form of Hawk, by his side.   Spenser’s advisories are very real, and very dangerous.  But so can be Spenser, Hawks, and their colleagues. As we move into the recognition that it is territory and drugs that are behind things—“Territory,” she said.  “How are men different than dogs.”—and when things turn bad, the tension is palpable and there’s no putting the book down.
Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby” is very, very good.  It’s not an homage or an imitation in any form.  Atkins truly captures that which made Parker’s books so successful.  

ROBERT B. PARKER’S LULLABY (PI-Spenser-Boston-Contemp) – VG+
Atkins, Ace – 1st in Parker series
G.P. Putnam’s Sons – May 2012

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