Wonderland is the second Spenser novel by Ace Atkins, and it is possibly the most densely plotted of all the books. Usually I breeze through these novels, including Atkins’s last entry into this long-lived series, but this one took some time to digest. There are a lot of players, and there are a lot of plotlines.
I still have mixed feelings about Zebulon Sixkill, Spenser’s protégé, and I wonder where Robert B. Parker was headed with the character after he introduced him. Jesse Stone was supposed to be a younger, unformed Spenser, and I suppose Z is as well. Z takes over the backup role for Spenser during the investigation, and he’s no Hawk, but it was interesting to see Spenser dealing with a younger man who’s still learning all the ropes. I think I like that, but it could get old after a while. Depends on how many tricks Atkins has up his sleeve.
The plot seems straightforward at first. Henry Cimoli, Spenser’s longtime friend – and as we find out in this book – mentor during and after his boxing career, asks for help. That’s something Cimoli has never done before, which is immediately interesting to those of us who have been reading the books since they first debuted. It seems some toughs are putting the arm on Cimoli and the other people who live in the apartment building. Spenser and Z take up the task of discouraging said toughs.
The investigation flips a couple times during the course of Spenser’s efforts. In fact, when he figured out everything that was going on in the first third of the book, I didn’t see where the rest of the novel could go. Then things got really complicated as new lines were drawn and the battle for the apartment building – and the rest of the waterfront area – took on a whole new intensity. It’s hard to discuss much more about the plot without giving too much away, which is weird to say about a Spenser novel because those are pretty well laid out in the opening chapters.
Ace Atkins has done a really good job here of infiltrating Spenser’s world and friends and enemies, and he’s introduced a brand new one in these pages who is going to be interesting to watch, because I’m certain we haven’t heard the last of him. I do have to admit that this book wasn’t quite as breezy and fun as the last one. Wonderland has a lot of dark corners and sharp edges that Spenser fans may not be used to.