On the Greenway, a carousel turned to calliope music. The two men approached me. They tried to act like they were shopping, but they were as unobtrusive as a couple of linebackers at a Céline Dion concert.
Say what you will about the relative merits of Atkins' two current series, but you won't get lines like that from Quinn Colson (maybe from Lille Virgil). (That's not really the best line of the book -- it's just the one that requires the least setup)
We're introduced to a new world here -- the Boston Fire Department, and the Arson investigators in particular (but not exclusively). It's a little harder for Spenser to work his magic here, at least at first, being very much a duck out of water. But, he keeps at it, and eventually things start falling into place -- even if he makes one serious (and perhaps life-threatening) mistake early on. There's a series of suspected arsons, but the proof is minimal, and it doesn't push the investigators in the right direction -- or any direction, really. The usual motives (fascination with fire, insurance money) don't seem to be involved here.
I should add that the motive for the crimes is interesting, if misguided. I'd almost like to see a bit more of it explored by the good guys, but that's not what this book is about.
Spenser and his allies do their thing, the way they always do (but fueled by a different donut source). The same ol' charm, wise cracks, and fists eventually do their job. I think this one is a notch above Atkins' last -- a couple of notches below Atkins or Parker at their best, but better than Parker's average. The fact that I have to work this hard to decide where exactly in the 40+ this one lies says something -- it's on the good end, I should stress -- but it's hard to distinguish this from the master himself, Robert B. Parker.
There's some good fodder for long-time fans here -- Marty Quirk has a new job, Frank Belson has a new boss (one not particularly taken with Spenser). Not only do we get a callback to Mattie Sullivan, but we get a couple from the more distant parts of Spenser's past -- A Catskill Eagle and Promised Land, one of my least favorites and one of Parker's best. Atkins' ability to use for the current narrative, comment on, and tap into fanboy nostalgia all at the same time is really something to watch.
Atkins is again feeling confident enough in his role here to make significant moves in Spenser's life -- not to mention Pearl's and Sixkill's. I'm not sure I'm crazy about the latter two, but I'm trusting Atkins. I'm pretty sure he has a plan regarding our favorite disgraced athlete that'll pay off. Can't help but wonder what Parker had in store for him, though.
Speaking of plans and things in store -- it's pretty clear that Atkins has a plan for Jackie DeMarco, too. I hope it takes a few books to pull it off, but I fear it won't.
I'm very glad to hear that we've got at least two more of these coming, Atkins is really helping me stay in touch with an old, old friend. I smiled, I chuckled, I even laughed a couple of times, and I reminisced a little, while wondering just how Spenser was going to save the day. All in all, a good way to spend a couple of hours. Now I've just got to count down the months until #45.