Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Review: Sixkill - Robert B. Parker's Last Hoorah


I love, but don't typically review, Spenser novels. They're generally tough guy mysteries which depend more testosterone filled scenes of violence and the frequent appearance of favorite characters than on eloquent prose. Witty banter between Spenser and his sidekick Hawk, frequent, if begrudging, cooperation from state and city detectives; Quirk, Belson, and Healey; regular alliances with the underworld, an array of colorful culturally diverse muscle men, and the psychoanalyzation of players in his current case by his love interest Susan Silverman are comfortable story elements to avid readers of the series.

Sixkill however, deserves special attention, since it's the last book Robert B. Parker completed before his death in January of 2010. This is the 39th or 40th Spenser book, depending on whether or not one counts 2009's Chasing the Bear, which tells a story from our hero's teen years. Yet, when you include his Jesse Stone series, Sunny Randall series, Virgil Cole series, and some non-series stragglers, it's his 69th novel altogether.

To briefly summarize the book, without revealing spoilers:
"On location in Boston, bad-boy actor Jumbo Nelson is accused of the rape and murder of a young woman. Not wanting the star to be railroaded by police brass and the press, BPD Captain Martin Quirk asks Spenser to look into the matter. In the course of the investigation, Spenser encounters Jumbo's bodyguard: a young, former football-playing Native American named Zebulon Sixkill. Sixkill acts tough, but Spenser sees something more within the young man. Despite the odd circumstances, the two forge an unlikely alliance, with Spenser serving as mentor for Sixkill." *

Except for the absence of Hawk, this book delivers everything fans want from a Spenser mystery. Frustrating roadblocks to the truth, thugs warning him off the case, hard hitting fisticuffs, and gun fights are all part of this latest case. I will admit to being personally disappointed by the solution to the case. Yet, there was still enough danger thrown Spenser's way, once he'd solved the mystery, to keep me entertained.

While the mystery is an exciting one, the story focuses more on the title character's evolution into a Hawk-like sidekick for Spenser. The middle of the book is even peppered with sub-chapters, which tell the story of Sixkill's life up until the time he went to work for Jumbo. These sub-chapters, coupled with the frequent mention of Hawk being in Asia, gave me the feeling that Parker was laying the ground work for future books.

Were Spenser and Sixkill destined to rescue Hawk from Asia, or perhaps avenge his death. Sadly, we'll never know. True, Ace Atkins has been slated to write future Spenser books, but they'll be products of Atkins' imagination, and probably won't be canonized by hard core fans.

*=Modified from official summary

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