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Tuesday, 25 May 2021

Robert B Parker’s ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ by Ace Atkins

 Published by No Exit Press,
15 April 2021.
ISBN: 978-0-85730428-5 (PBO)         

Robert B Parker’s first novel, The Godwulf Manuscript, introducing Boston private eye Spenser was published in 1973.  I bought a copy, and I was hooked from the first sentence.

The office of the University President looked like the front parlour of a Victorian whorehouse.

Parker was the best-selling author of over 60 books. 38 Spenser thrillers, 9 mysteries featuring small town Police Chief Jesse Stone, 6 led by female private eye Sunny Randall, and half a dozen westerns. He was a Grand Master of the Mystery Writers of America.

He wrote tough, stripped to the bone, smart, intelligent prose. Packed more into a half-whispered phrase than most writers manage to squeeze into a page. He got straight to the point, dumped elaborate descriptions of people and character and never wasted a word, describing one enforcer thus – He looked like he flossed with a tyre iron.

Crime is a very flexible genre. It’s not just about good guys and bad. It’s so much more than the workings of a ‘whodunnit’. Crime writers have the whole of the human condition to explore, and the best of them never disappoint.

Parker wrote with wit and grace and all the assurance of one of the greatest in the trade. He died in 2010. So where has that left us?

Well… Jesse Stone lives on in print in the capable hands Reed Farrel Coleman and on the TV screen with producer Michael Brandman and series star Tom Sellick. Sunny Randall with Mike Lupica. Spenser himself with Ace Atkins.

And in the new thriller, Atkins continues to do the late author proud. As the story opens… Spenser has shifted direction a bit and gained more responsibilities. He has new puppy. And he’s taken on an assistant, a young protege Mattie Sullivan who brings a problem to his door.

She re-filled the mug from the Mr Coffee atop my file cabinet and took a seat in one of my client chairs.
“So there’s this girl.”
“Lost her backpack and her laptop at some club off the Common,” she said. “And she wants it back.”

The answer to the problem would seem sensible enough. Go back to the club and pick the things up. Both the girl and Mattie try that, only to be threatened and thrown out. Subsequently followed and threatened again. Mattie can’t persuade her friend to go to the police. She asks Spenser for help.

And the most dangerous case he has ever encountered breaks open in front of him.

The Blackstone Club in a back street on the edge of Boston’s Chinatown, is the stopper in a very large cask of evil run by corrupt, vicious, billionaire money manager Peter Steiner and his associate Poppy Palmer. They share an island in the Bahamas, a private jet, and extremely powerful friends in high and low places. They run a high-end organisation – an equal opportunity exploiter of the law, power, money and of young girls supplied for rich, socially and morally deviant clients only too keen to pay top dollar to be entertained.

Run by fear and terror, the network seems unbreakable. Witnesses made to disappear, loved ones who try to intervene threatened and blackmailed, police files stolen and deleted, cases dropped by the courts, justice suborned.

Spenser collects all the allies he has. His partner Susan Silverman, a psychiatrist with some experience of the territory he is about to enter. His great friend Hawk, the toughest clued up black man on the block. Rita Fiore one of the best attorneys in town. And two top homicide detectives from Boston PD. Maybe, this experienced collective can bring down the Steiner Palmer organisation.

The journey takes them from Boston to Miami, to Boca Raton and the Bahamas. Spenser and Hawk come up against expensive hard men, a highly organised international security company and, in an epic showdown, the man Spenser fears most of all – an assassin who once shot him in the back and consigned him to months of painful rehabilitation.

Ace Atkins has written a lean, tough, fast paced thriller with the complete balance of action, humour and pathos for which Robert B Parker is so justly celebrated.

Reviewer: Jeff Dowson

Ace Atkins is an experienced crime writer with several stand alones, a series about Nick Travers and his Quinn Coulson series which he continues to write. He has already published the Spenser Lullaby and is writing more Spensers. In an interview in 2013 he explained that he couldn't write the Coulson and Spenser books at the same time - he writes the two series separately allowing half a year for each! 

Jeff Dowson began his career working in the theatre as an actor and a director. From there he moved into television as an independent writer/producer/director. Screen credits include arts series, entertainment features, drama documentaries, drama series and TV films. Turning crime novelist in 2014, he introduced Bristol private eye Jack Shepherd in Closing the Distance.  The series developed with Changing the Odds, Cloning the Hate and Bending the Rules. The Ed Grover series, featuring an American GI in Bristol during the years following World War 2, began with One Fight At A Time.  The second book New Friends Old Enemies has just been published. Jeff is a member of BAFTA and the Crime Writers Association.

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