August 11, 2013
When Robert B. Parker died in 2010, I mourned the likelihood that there would be no more Spenser novels....and when Ace Atkins (a writer that I had never heard of previously) would be taking over the character, I mourned the likelihood that Spenser would enter the realm of literary "mockbuster".
Having just finished Wonderland, Atkins' second book with Parker's Spenser, I should not have worried - not only is it good work in its own right, but it effortlessly picks up where Parker left off.
Atkins performs the same literary skill that Max Allan Collins does with Mickey Spillane - Wonderland's prose not only captures Spenser's voice, but shares Parker's sparse, colloquial style. Although a bit longer than typical Spenser novels, that is not a drawback - in fact, given the slight intricacies of the plot, it makes total sense, and the book never feels overstuffed.
Wonderland finds Spenser approached by Henry Cimolli - owner of the boxing gym where Spenser and Hawk work out - being reminded that Cimolli "has never asked you for a favor." Launching into the investigation of a possible casino development, Spenser finds himself drawn into the usual web of intrigue. (It's hard to describe without spoiling....but to summarize, Spenser gets to do what he usually does: cook, crack wise, and investigate, not necessarily in that order).
One interesting facet of this book is that Spenser's main accomplice in this endeavor is Zebulon Sixkill, featured in Parker's final Spenser novel of the same name. (Hawk is away from the action, and Susan comes in mid-novel). It's an interesting take - although he's no Paul Giacomin from Early Autumn, Spenser's efforts to train Sixkill as an investigator are a great effort by Atkins to illuminate both characters. (In all honesty, I have no idea if Atkins is working off Parker's notes). I have to admit that although I liked the idea of Spenser creating another protege (part of his "extended family on his own terms"), there are parts where it seems to be unnecessarily comic, as if Atkins was unsure how humorous to make the work. (In addition, Sixkill's status towards the end of the book seems almost like an afterthought, as if Atkins was unsure where to go).
In all fairness, I expected to dislike Wonderland, but not only did I enjoy it, I did the next best thing: reserved Atkin's Spenser debut, Lullaby, at my local public library.
Good to know that Spenser's in good literary hands.