Someone to Watch Over Me by Ace Atkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy of this from NetGalley.
Spenser tries to bring down a rich pedophile who has been protected for years by his wealth and influence. This guy also has a partner in a woman who helps him lure the girls in, and they are often taken to a private island where other powerful men come to party.
That’s just such a disturbing and creepy premise that I’m glad this is a work of fiction and that nothing like that could happen in real life….
In the first Spenser book that Ace Atkins wrote the detective helped a fourteen-year-old girl named Mattie find her mother’s killer. Now Mattie is old enough to legally drink, and she’s been working for Spenser and training as a junior PI. It’s Mattie who is asked by a young girl from her neighborhood for help after she had an icky encounter with a rich pervert at an exclusive club. It soon becomes apparent that there’s some very twisted and rotten stuff going on, and that the guy behind it all will use all of his wealth and power to do anything possible to stop any of his victims from going public.
There are several interesting things going on in this one. The main plot was obviously inspired by a true story although Atkins changes things up so that just because we know what happened in real life doesn’t mean you know how this book will end. The idea of a guy like this with a private island and a stunning list of powerful friends who are involved would probably seem too over-the-top to work in a Spenser novel if it hadn’t happened. So you’ve got Spenser going up against people that you really want to see get kicked in the teeth which makes it satisfying when the detective starts rattling their cages.
Another satisfying thing is that we get a lot of Hawk in this one. Atkins has been judicious in his use of everybody’s favorite bad ass best friend character so that he could explore and expand the roles of other supporting players in recent books, and he’s done a great job of it. Still, it’s always comforting to know that Hawk is around, and it was nice to get a little insight into what Hawk does when he isn’t saving Spenser’s ass in Boston.
Bringing back Mattie was another nice touch. Spenser has taken in other people like his surrogate son Paul and his former PI apprentice Z. Sixkill so this follows a pattern. However, Mattie is an incredibly independent woman who doesn’t always see things the way Spenser does, and while the two have a real bond, she also isn’t afraid to start finding her own way versus just following in Spenser’s footsteps.
The one thing I wasn’t crazy about was the subplot of Spenser getting a new puppy after his dog Pearl has passed away. As the series has done in the past, Spenser gets another dog of the same exact breed and again names her Pearl. This always seemed like a cheat by Robert B. Parker to keep Spenser in a timeless limbo, but Atkins here does explore why Spenser does this when Susan questions it as a coping mechanism. It makes some sense, but at this point Spenser is essentially ageless so why not just make it the same Pearl vs. periodically killing one off and getting another one?
Aside from that minor nitpicking, I enjoyed this one from start to finish. Mattie’s part of the plot gave it the kind of freshness that Ace Atkins has been bringing to the series from the start while the stuff with Spenser and Hawk felt very old school, like some of the earliest RBP books. It was a nice combination that appealed to me as a long time Spenser fan while still feeling new and modern.
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