When the prolific Robert Parker, Jr. died in 2010, he left one manuscript behind. Published last year, Sixkill was vintage Parker. Death no longer stops authors. The estate of Ian Fleming has contracted authors to write in his style and continue the James Bond story. The latest, Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver, captured a young Bond as portrayed through the best combination of Fleming and Deaver. Robert Ludlum lives through the literary excesses of Eric Van Lustbader in Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Dominion.
The estate of Robert Parker asked Ace Atkins to continue the Parker oeuvre. Could there be a more appropriate name than "Ace" to write as Parker's alter ego? The tone is pitch perfect; the characters finely tuned with the nuances Parker granted them. The cast is here: the wisecracking Spenser, of course; the lovely and smart Susan; the colossal, caring Hawk; and Pearl, the wonder dog. Quirk, Belson, and Fiore each fit in just the right way. The dialogue is snappy and drives the plot. The literary allusions are intact and nearly always over the head of whomever Spenser shares each gem.
Mattie Sullivan, a tough 14-year old girl, comes into Spenser's office and asks him to right a wrong and discover who murdered her mother. A simple-minded young man has been in prison for a decade and Mattie knows that he could not have committed the crime. She has no money; she is trying to hold a semblance of family together, protecting her two younger siblings as they live in the home of a drunken grandmother; and she continues to excel in school. Mattie is a street-wise, profane teenager who knows what she wants and is Spenser's equal in determination if not experience. She has no money so Spenser takes her case for a dozen donuts.
The trail leads through the usual back alleys of Boston and into the mouth of evil. While it appears that Mickey Green is guilty, there are forces working hard to throw Spenser, Hawk, and Mattie off the track, if not kill them. Those who know Parker know that justice and Spenser will prevail so it is the journey toward that justice that keeps one coming back again and again to his novels.
Ace Atkins is a successful writer in his own right, having written ten novels. Beginning his career as a journalist in Tampa, he earned a Pulitzer nomination for a series on a 1950s murder. The settings of his novels have followed him around the country from San Francisco to Alabama to Tampa. A graduate of Auburn University, he now lives near Oxford, Mississippi.