Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Boston P.I. Spenser Searches for Some OLD BLACK MAGIC in This Novel from Ace Atkins

This is another very entertaining Spenser novel, written by Ace Atkins who took over the series following the death of Robert B. Parker. This is the seventh of the novels that Atkins has written, and he long ago established his bona fides as the right person to take over from the master. It's not an exaggeration to say that the series now belongs to him almost as much as it does to Parker.

This story is based on an actual art theft that occurred in Boston in 1990, and as the book opens, Spenser is asked to help recover a hugely valuable painting The Gentleman in Black, by the Spanish master, El Greco, which was stolen twenty years earlier from the Winthrop Museum. The request comes from another detective, an old friend named Locke. Locke has been pursuing the painting practically since its theft, but now Locke is dying and wants Spenser to take over the quest.

New evidence has recently come to light that the painting may still be in the Boston area, and the Winthrop is offering a five million dollar reward for its safe return. But Spenser doesn't agree to take the case for the reward; he's doing it for an old friend.

The people at the museum are generally priggish pains in the butt, and they blow hot and cold on Spenser's efforts to find their missing painting. They're more a hindrance than a help, but still, of course, he perseveres. His sidekick, Hawk, is out of town, and Sixkill has moved to California, so Spenser will turn to an old criminal acquaintance, Vinnie Morris, to serve as his backup this time around.

The quest will take Spenser through a maze of the Boston underworld, with a short side trip to the King's hometown of Memphis. There's a lot of double-crossing and dirty dealing, and Spenser has no idea who he can really trust, save for Morris who has his own reason for joining the crusade.

Through it all, Spenser remains the tough, wise-cracking P.I. that readers of the series have come to love and, as an added bonus, we see very little of Spenser's girlfriend, Susan Silverman, in this novel.There's hardly any of the smarmy, nausea-inducing interplay between the two that disrupts so many of the books in this series, and for that, this reader is especially grateful. An extra half of a star just for that.

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