Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Review: Robert B. Parker's Angel Eyes

Robert B. Parker's Angel Eyes Robert B. Parker's Angel Eyes by Ace Atkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spenser goes Hollywood, and I’m not talking about that upcoming Netflix movie.

A young woman originally from Boston has gone missing after moving to Los Angeles, and her mother has hired Spenser to find her so he heads west. Tracking down the young lady puts Spenser at odds with a powerful Hollywood producer, a self-help group that seems more like a cult, and a dangerous Aremenian gang.

Fortunately, despite being far from home Spenser has plenty of friends around to help out like his former protege Z. Sixkill who has started his own private detective business. There’s also Spenser’s thug buddies Chollo and Bobby Horse that work for the local crime boss who Spenser is on good terms with thanks to their previous encounters. LAPD Captain Sameulson is still around although he’s less thrilled to see Spenser back in town causing trouble again.

Ace Atkins has become one of the those writers that I file under R for Reliable at this point. For several years now he’s been producing both Spenser and Quinn Colson books like clockwork, and every time I start one of his I know that I’m in for a good time. For both these series he’s also been walking the tricky tightrope that balance familiarity with mixing things up so that neither start to seem formulaic or stale.

This is a prime example of that with Atkins again drawing on the long history of Spenser as written by the late Robert B. Parker so that it still seems like the same character, but then using that as a jumping off point to move in new directions. This isn’t the first time Spenser has gone out to LA so he’s dealing with a bunch of familiar characters and situations, but this never feels like we’re just going over the same old ground. Atkins also has a knack for putting a slightly different spin on some of these old supporting characters so that they seem to have more going on than just being props in Spenser’s world. For example, I loved how Samuelson, who has plenty of reasons to dread seeing the detective come to town, gets thoroughly pissed off when he once again finds himself knee-deep in a Spenser related mess.

There’s also a nice ripped-from-the-headlines vibe to this story although it doesn’t go in the direction that I initially thought it would. I also appreciate how Atkins has managed to update Spenser by using more tech and things like social media while still keeping his old school nature. There’s also a fun tip of the cap to another crime series when Spenser briefly crosses paths with another fictional detective. Long time fans also know that LA is the spot of one of Spenser’s biggest regrets, and there’s a nicely done acknowledgement of that, too. Another sly Easter egg appeared to be a reference to the upcoming movie.

Through it all we’ve got all the staples of a good Spenser story. Funny banter, good action, descriptions of food guaranteed to make you hungry, and a twisty mystery that Spenser unravels by being a pain in the ass to anyone he comes across who is standing in the way.

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