My review of LULLABY first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers, and I am reprinting it here with their permission.
The first Spenser novel penned by someone other than Robert B. Parker will undoubtedly face a high level of scrutiny. Ace Atkins’ Lullaby will stand up to any level.
The woman who walks into private investigator Spenser’s office is fourteen-year-old Mattie Sullivan looking to set the record straight on her mother’s murder four years earlier. Mattie is convinced the wrong man was convicted, but the combination of Mattie’s age, her mother’s history of drug addition and prostitution, as well as the evidence against the convicted man all cause the police to turn a deaf ear. Spenser listens and soon finds himself embroiled in the dark element of Boston no one’s willing to talk about.
Atkins has proven himself an exceptionally talented writer through his own works, including his most recent Quinn Colson series; Lullaby verifies he’s only shown a fraction of his abilities to date. Taking the essence of all that made Spenser an iconic figure in the P.I. genre, Atkins adds an arresting new chapter in the wisecracking, food-loving, former boxer’s biography.
The dialogue follows in the vein of Parker: sharp, witty, engaging. Relationship dynamics will pull readers into more than just the plot, they will pull readers into the lives of the characters. And Atkins remains true to all of Parker’s characters including Spenser’s regular supporting cast: Susan, Rita, Hawk and Quirk.
Especially impressive is Atkins’ sense of Boston. Unlike Parker, Atkins is not a native, but that doesn’t impair his ability to give it as much life as one of the characters.
Taking on the challenge of continuing the much-loved Spenser series is a daunting task. Ace Atkins responds with a knock-out punch in round one. Parker would most definitely approve.
Extra note: I don't know that 250 (or in my wordy case 280) words can do justice to how wonderful I felt this book was. I was skeptical, and Atkins won me over on page one. The dialogue is simply priceless - reflecting character, expressing humor, evoking emotion:
"You think Broz did the shooting in Dorchester?" I asked.
"Yep," Hawk said. "Course, he didn't pull the trigger. You think Gerry knows one end of the gun from the other?"
"Leaves us with Red and Moon."
"Bad guys," I said.
"We been up against much badder," Hawk said. "Those boys still minor-league."
"And Jack Flynn?"
"Jack Flynn is on the thug all-star team."
And Atkins doesn't include a dialogue tag in every line. The interaction between characters should be a textbook lesson. It's art. Whether you're a long-time Spenser fan or you haven't ever picked up one of the books, you'll enjoy Lullaby. Don't miss this one!
Robert B. Parker's Lullaby is available in hardcover from Putnam (ISBN: 9780399158032) and on audio from Random House Audio (ISBN: 9780307987730), narrated by long-time series narrator, Joe Mantegna.