Letters of Mass Construction

Robert B. Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins

Anyone who knows me, knows how important Robert B. Parker was to my reading life. The Spenser novels made me a mystery reader. More importantly, they showed me what kind of mysteries I liked. I liked characters. I liked people that were flawed. I liked stories that showed real people, having real problems. I met Robert B. Parker a few times in my life. He signed a few hardbacks for me (which I still have). I didn’t get to talk for very long because the line was huge but I was humbled to be able to talk to him even if for just a moment. His death left a giant whole in the world of writers.

I was beyond skeptical when they announced that several writers would be picking up Mr. Parker’s big characters. While I liked some of his other series (his westerns in particular). I wasn’t a giant fan like I was of the Spenser novels. If I was being honest though, I hadn’t really enjoyed a Spenser novel completely in years. It wasn’t that they were terrible. They had just lost a lot of the shine. I read them all but when he passed away I was ready to shut the door and move on.

Then they announced that Ace Atkins would be writing the Spenser novels and I was intrigued. I had read him before and found him a very good writer. Before the first book came out I was hearing some rumblings that it was quite good. I reluctantly picked it up and read it. I was flabbergasted. It was incredibly good. Better than many of Mr. Parker’s last entries into the series. I felt like I was cheating on one of my favorite authors but I knew the truth. There was no use denying that Atkins had returned a sense of style and flare to Spenser. I was hooked.

The latest entry continues the trend. Kickback is a fairly straight forward story. A group of individuals are doing bad things. In this case, it is jailing teens in a money making scheme. A distraught mom comes to Spenser for help and he then doggedly pursues the bad guys until he annoys them so much they try to kill him. Spenser has always been very good at the annoying thing.

Atkins gives us everything we want. A very tight and action packed story. Great characters and great dialogue abound. Like all Spenser novels the story reads incredibly fast (I finished it on one sitting). It is deceptively good. The story just sneaks up on you and makes you care. Atkins has added a few new touches that Mr. Parker never really tried and they work well in here. When I finished the book I felt like I had consumed a great meal and washed it down with a beer. It was completely satisfying. I don’t know how Atkins has managed to capture the essence of what Spenser is and how Mr. Parker wrote him but he has. If you are looking for a great summer read to gobble up at the beach or the cabin or anywhere. Pick this book up (and any of the other Atkin’s Spenser novels). I eagerly await the next entry. Atkins is a magician and I am a willing astounded audience member.

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