Robert B. Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 304 pages, $27
It’s a comfort that the departed Robert B. Parker’s voice and characters have lived on with help from Ace Atkins, who’s continued his Spenser series. Here, private eye Spenser has been induced to investigate the incarceration of juveniles on a Boston Harbor island. The crimes are minor, to put it mildly: One kid, Dillon, made naughty fun of his vice principal—setting up a fake Twitter profile and suggesting he gardens in the nude—and off he went, no lawyer involved.
In ominous italicized passages, we learn that this island juvie, despite platitudinous mission statements, is a place of horror and abuse. Spenser and his sidekick Hawk, a gun for hire with a casually sexy style, go after the slimy characters involved, including Boston judges and a developer, who get bucks galore for every slammered kid.
With ping-ponging repartee, Spenser and Hawk travel to Tampa to explore the Bostonians’ thug connections. Violence and threats come at them, and they return the favor with nonchalant fearlessness. In Parker style, Atkins lets the breeze of good humor and some wiseguy sarcasm waft through even the most sinister situations. And with Susan the shrink, Spenser enjoys a dance of a romance full of gently mocking affection.
From page 39: Felix Bukowski wasn’t pleased to have a visitor. He looked to have had a long day at court, but the closer I got, it smelled as if he’d had a long day at the tavern. He was short and thick with an enormous head. He looked like one of those guys who needed everything custom made, from hats to pants. He looked to be a 28 inseam with a 38 waist. His hair was long and slick and matched his sparse grey beard. I couldn’t tell if he was trying for the stubble look or just had forgotten to shave.