If you’re a long-time Spenser fan, ignore this review; you know what you’re getting and no doubt that’s what you want. I’d never read a Spenser mystery nor seen the TV show based on the books, so this was new to me. But not very new, since it followed a familiar formula. Spenser is a tough guy Boston P.I. with a rockin’ bod, hot girlfriend (Susan), a loyal dog (Pearl), and two tough guy sidekicks (Hawk and Z) with equally hard bodies and the skill sets to match. Together they take on a trio of wannabe firefighters who resort to arson to get their flame fix. Spenser and gang win every fight with ease, fearlessly rip off the local Mafioso and his entire gang, and donate his drug money to an orphanage. Unsurprisingly, he identifies the arsonists when the entire Boston Arson Squad and Police Homicide Unit can’t.
Ace Atkins, the author, was chosen by the Parker family to continue the long-running Spenser series originated by the late Robert B. Parker. I have no quibble with the formula. It obviously works for many, but I can’t say it made me want to read more. Spenser has a certain style, with plenty of wisecracks and constant restaurant hopping. He must be made of money since no one ever pays him and he lives a luxurious lifestyle. Ah the glorious life of a P.I.! Right – I was one briefly after I retired from the FBI.
One tidbit I found interesting: the plot mentions real-life reporter and author Hank Philippi Ryan. I read and reviewed her book The Wrong Girl (2 stars) a couple of years ago. Atkins and Ryan share one rather obnoxious stylistic trait: they constantly describe every character’s attire, with special emphasis on designer names. Now I’ve seen that in several chick lit mysteries written by women, but this is the first time I’ve seen it from a male writer. Yet here it is not only from a male author but with a testosterone-laden male protagonist. It wouldn’t have surprised me if it had come from a gay author with a gay leading man, but what the hey, I think the Spenser series is intended to appeal to women, not men. Baryshnikov had a rockin’ bod, too, and women loved him. If only he could have reciprocated.
The book had enough style to keep me reading to the end, but no suspense and nothing to make me pick up another Spenser. By the way, the full title is Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn, a Spenser Novel in case you have any trouble finding it under the name Slow Burn. My library had it alphabetized under Atkins, not Parker.