Robert B. Parker's Kickback
by Ace Atkins
G.P. Putnam's Sons
4 out of 5 bottles of Sam Adams.
“On the first day of February, the coldest day of the year so far, I took it as a very good omen that a woman I’d never met brought me a sandwich.”
This may be the smartest client that Spenser has ever had because one sure way to motivate the private detective is to offer him food. It also helps if you’re hiring him to help an innocent person who got royally screwed over by powerful people because Spenser enjoys sinking his teeth into a case like that almost as much as biting into a free sandwich.
In a rundown old mill town a judge has sentenced a young man to nine months in a juvenile detention facility for making fun of a school official on Twitter. (And if making fun of people on Twitter is a jailable offense then I’m in a lot of trouble because my mocking of former Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli would probably have been enough to get me the death penalty.)
Spenser investigates and finds a pattern of the judge throwing every kid he can into jail for minor infractions, and some more digging reveals ties between the judge and the private company getting paid by the government to run the prison as well as a dangerous mobster. Spenser soon finds himself threatened by both the local cops and thugs.
This is the fourth Spenser novel that Ace Atkins has done after being hired by the estate of Robert B. Parker to carry on the series, and he’s done an exceptional job of writing these in a way that feels like his own style while still being true to the character. This one has scenes and dialogue that really feel reminiscent of the early Spenser, and I especially like how Hawk has regained some of the rougher edges he used to have that had gotten sanded off in the later RBP books.
One of the more interesting changes is that while the Atkins books are still self-contained stories that he’s been leaving plot threads hanging to be addressed later, and this gives the series more of a sense of on-going serialized continuity than it typically had before. Spenser still exists in a kind of ageless limbo, but there’s been changes to his world since Atkins took over that are adding layers to the stories.
So we’ve got all those elements along with the kind of plot in which Spenser can really shine as he takes on corrupt officials and criminals with his usual mix of tough guy stubbornness and smart ass comments. That makes for a great read that any fan of the private eye genre should enjoy.
Also reviewed at Goodreads.