Spenser Gets A Lethal Lesson In Art

“Old Black Magic” is the latest novel from Ace Atkins who has been continuing the popular Spenser series created by the late Robert B. Parker.

A friend of Spenser’s is dying and his major regret is his failure to recover some paintings that were taken in a heist twenty years before.  Spenser is hired to look into the matter when the museum that was robbed starts receiving letters from someone claiming to know the whereabouts of the purloined art pieces.  Spenser always knows which members of the criminal elite in Boston to start with.  Of course, murder is right around the corner.

Although Hawk is away in this one, former enforcer Vinnie Morris is on hand to help with the negotiation and with the muscle.

I found this one to be a little more interesting because high dollar art is not usually a realm in which Spenser operates.  He is on familiar territory when facing old mob bosses who could point him in the right direction.  Also, he has to contend with police officials who resent his participation in the investigation.  Some things have changed for Spenser in recent years, but he still has long-time girlfriend, Susan Silverman, at his side as well as the love of their pooch, Pearl.

I was a little surprised that this novel seemed a little short on fisticuffs here.  Also, no one burst into Spenser’s office to threaten him.  I was even more astounded when some drunken floozie didn’t make some clumsy pass at him so he could take the noble road of monogamy to Susan.

Spenser still has the dry wit, although Atkins seems to have tried to come up with new ways to present it.  There is a certain repetition of encounters in most of the novels, however Atkins seems to have taken a little different path in this one without really compromising the integrity of Parker’s creation.

I am not sure that I have the expertise to claim that Atkins’ efforts to emulate Parker’s style of prose is flawless, but I feel confident to proclaim this to be one of the better installments in the series.  I did miss Hawk though, but I expect he will be back at Spenser’s side in the next novel.

I guess this is the season for me to read continuations of series created by now deceased authors.  Stieg Larsson’s Swedish hacker and crusader, Lisbeth Salander, is back in “The Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye” by David Lagercrantz.

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