Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

SLOW BURN by Ace Atkins


I’m glad Ace Atkins was picked to carry on the Spenser novels. I grew up with that character and I don’t want him to ever disappear.

Atkins comes really close to mimicking Parker’s style with his dialogue and observations (so different from Atkins’ Quinn Colson character), but I noticed in Kickback that the storylines were starting to shift away from the Parker template. More and more, other viewpoint characters are popping up, dividing a reader’s attention. I know this helps a writer show different aspects of the story and provides a means of digging more deeply into ancillary characters, but I think it slows down the Spenser story, and deflects from the momentum.

Occasionally in the past, Parker worked in another point of view, Crimson Joy, comes immediately to mind, and I remember stumbling over those parts as well. I didn’t think they were necessary to the story because the story was about Spenser’s chase of the Red Rose killer. Parker always managed to get those extra bits in through dialogue with one character or another.

I enjoyed the pursuit of the arsonists in the story, but in a way the detective work was plodding, like it is in real life, I know. But this is fiction and I wanted a quicker pace. Also, the arsonists were really small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, not criminals that could seriously threaten Spenser.

This novel seems to delve a little too much into Spenser’s age for my taste. I’ve always pictured him as late thirties/early forties, and never really ageing from year to year. I’ve grown comfortable with the fact that I am now older than he is supposed to be, but the references to letting Sixkill beat him in runs and the replaced knee (while totally believable given Spenser’s line of work) just jars me. I want the detective fantasy.

Throughout the book, readers are treated to more or less a roll call of regulars. Most of them get quick mentions in one capacity or another, then the story moves along. The scene with Marty Quirk in his new office was jarring as well. Sure, promotion is expected, but I like Quirk being Quirk and Belson being Belson.

And then there’s the matter of Sixkill. I guess Atkins is phasing him out, sending him packing for Los Angeles. Maybe to another series. I wouldn’t be adverse to that, but Robert B. Parker is now being packaged as much as James Patterson and Clive Cussler. Not a bad thing. Just…interesting.

I don’t know that Parker had any clear intentions for Sixkill when he introduced him. Sixkill could have just been a character Parker introduced in what is now his last book in the series. One that he might just as easily have said goodbye to in the next book.

We also get treated to another Susan/Spenser “we can’t live together” scenario in this book. It felt way too much like the previous discussions about this, like a chorus to a familiar song.

I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, and I’ll admit that I’m curious about what will change now that these pieces are in play.


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