Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

CHEAP SHOT by Ace Atkins

Ace Atkins Cheap Shot

Cheap Shot spends a lot of time hitting buttons in the Spenser World. After a while, I started to feel like I was checking off names on a scavenger hunt. Hawk. Check. Vinnie Morris. Check. Rachel Wallace. Check. Hugh Dixon Check. (Only long-time readers would have picked up on that one from The Judas Goat.) I was actually surprised that Rita Fiore wasn’t mentioned.

In many of the past novels in the series, Spenser has been fired by clients, then continued to work for the clients to resolve things. Hawk even mentions it in passing humor. In this novel, I couldn’t keep up with who fired (and rehired) Spenser last. By the time I turned the final pages, I wasn’t sure who paid him for services rendered.

I also struggled to figure out the plot. The shooting was pretty straightforward, and then the kidnapping, but I couldn’t believe how tangled everything got before the final resolution. I also struggled with the fact Spenser didn’t follow up on ALL the leads he had at his disposal. The one that he didn’t follow through on was important. The biggest problem I had was the kidnapping. I couldn’t figure out why it went down like that, and it still bothers me.

Of course, over the years I had the same problems with Robert B. Parker’s novels. Parker tended to wander around wherever he wished as well and often seemed to pull an ending out of a hat. Still, the thing that kept me coming back time and again were the characters and the writing.

Ace Atkins is doing a great job continuing the series. The writing is smooth and the characters are mostly on. Hawk felt strange to me in this one, and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it’s because Z and Hawk are both fulfilling the second banana role and there’s not enough stage time to pull Hawk through.

One of the main Hawk story lines that didn’t get played out was his being “smitten” by Kimbro Heywood’s ex-wife. Or maybe the resolution of that is waiting in the wings.

As for the writing, I think Atkins is actually writing smoother, embellishing little things, and making easy to turn pages regarding the narration. Parker tended to be leaner and do a lot more with dialogue. Atkins does a lot with dialogue too, but we get more of a chance to be inside Spenser’s head with this one. Atkins also keeps tabs on the other characters better in some ways. Zebulon Sixkiller has come a long way since Spenser first introduced him, and it would have been interesting to see what Parker did with Z. Would he have become Spenser-lite the way Atkins has filled him out? I like Z, and would actually like to see more of him.

The action got a little lean in this one, I thought, and the ending needed something more. I would have liked to know how things turned out for Kimbro and the others. Overall, I had a good time with this one and am looking forward to the next Quinn Colson book this summer.

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