When fourteen-year-old Mattie Sullivan asks Spenser to look into her mother’s murder, he’s not completely convinced by her claim that the police investigation four years ago was botched. Mattie is gruff, street-smart, and wise beyond her years, left to care for her younger siblings and an alcoholic grandmother in a dilapidated apartment in South Boston. But her need for closure and her determination to make things right hit Spenser where he lives- they’re the very characteristics he abides by. Mattie believes the man convicted of the crime is innocent and points Spenser to the Southie toughs who she saw carrying her mother away hours before her murder. Neither the Boston PD nor the neighborhood thugs are keen on his dredging up the past, but as Spenser becomes more involved in the case, he starts to realize that Mattie may be onto something. Spenser will need Hawk’s help to find peace for Mattie – a job that’s more dangerous than he ever thought.
Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Lullaby appeared on my Kindle Fire on the publication date. Yowzer. But I put off reading it for a bit, because it’s the first Spenser book not written by Robert B. Parker. I’ve mentioned before, the Spenser books saved my sanity and kept me entertained during a rough patch in my life. I not only love the Spenser characters, I wish they were real human beings, because I like them all so much. Yeah, I’m a dork!
I finally fired up my Kindle Fire, started to read, and kept reading. Once I had read ten pages, I knew that Ace Atkins had hit a home run. Atkins gets Spenser; his weak jokes, major and minor relationships, and the personality that drives cops and bad guys nuts. Spenser’s penchant for taking up lost causes is also alive and well, this time in the form of a fourteen year-old girl who wants Spenser to find her mother’s killer. Mattie reminds me a lot of another Spenser character, Paul Giacomin, the teenager Spenser rescued in earlier books. Mattie’s fearless, she’s got a wise mouth, and is certain her opinions are the only ones to consider. No wonder Spenser decides to help her; Mattie is a younger, female version of tough guy Spenser.
Lullaby has its share of crooks, or it wouldn’t be a Spenser tale. Some of the bad guys we’ve seen before, others are new. Spenser and Hawk do their thing, this time with Mattie riding shotgun (hey, somebody has to make sure Spenser’s doing his job, right?). A character like Mattie, a kid forced to grow up too soon, brings out the righting-all-wrongs tough guy Spenser; he will risk death to help his client. Spenser’s girlfriend Susan’s around to provide comfort and free psychiatric consultation, And YES, Hawk’s backing up his pal when it’s time to mix it up with the bad guys. Cops Quirk and Belson try to keep Spenser legal (as always), and sexy lawyer Rita Fiore comes in handy for legal help (and some harmless sexual tension).
I was reading Lullaby, all caught up in the action, when I realized I had forgotten that Robert B. Parker did not write this book. I felt sad for a minute or so, then started to smile. Ace Atkins wrote Lullaby, but he’s captured Parker’s Spenser, the character’s voice, even his soul. The dialogue rings true, my beloved characters are intact, and Spenser’s the guy to go to when you’re in a jam and no one else gives a hoot. Lullaby is a true Spenser tale, and I look forward to the next one.
5 stars to Lullaby, and to Ace Atkins.