Things I'm Reading...

It's been a while since I've commented on books that I've read or am reading, but there's a pile of them lying around so I thought, "Why not?"

The death in 2010 of Boston author Robert B. Parker deprived the world of a master of the detective novel. Over a career that spanned five decades, Parker produced an admirable body of work in a variety of genres, his most famous characters being small-town police chief Jesse Stone and Boston P.I., Spenser.

Parker developed these two very different characters, making them believable within their universe, and while they never crossed paths in the novels, they existed in a Venn-diagram kind of milieu where supporting characters would crop up in both streams, giving the whole a unified sort of feel.

And, sad as I was at Parker's passing, I was encouraged by the fact that the stories of his two protagonists would continue, new works having been approved by his estate.

The first of these was "Killing The Blues", a Jesse Stone story by Michael Brandman, who collaborated with Parker on a number of movie projects including the Jesse Stone series starring Tom Selleck.

Brandman does an admirable job in preserving Parker's 'voice', losing none of the appeal brought by Parker in nine previous novels. Here, a crime wave of stolen cars in the town of Paradise, Mass., expands to arson and murder, and Chief Stone has his work cut out for him trying to stop it while staying alive.

The story is well-paced, the conclusion satisfying,  and I think it's safe to say I'll hang on for  the next entry in the series.

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In "Lullaby", Ace Atkins sends Spenser on a knight-errant mission to discover what really happened to the mother of then 10-year-old Mattie Sullivan, who disappeared four years ago and was found murdered. The youngster, convinced that the man convicted of the crime is innocent, hires the PI to find the truth, something at which he excels, and the game is afoot.

The story takes Spenser to South Boston, a little afield from his normal haunts, and reunites him with Hawk, as they investigate the case. With echoes of True Grit, I was also reminded (by the character of Mattie) of a young Jodie Foster in the 1974 Harry O pilot movie "Smile Jenny, You're Dead".

I'll be checking out Atkins's Quinn Colson series and other work, and watching out for his next visit to Boston.

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Robert Crais's latest novel, Taken, once again sees Los Angeles PIs Elvis Cole and Joe Pike involved in a missing persons case. Well, actually two, since Cole becomes one of them while working undercover looking for the others, kidnapped by people-traffickers in the California-Mexico borderlands.

Told from different perspectives, in staggered flashbacks, the story is fast-paced, the dialogue spare and unembellished; and, while not the best of Crais's stories (for me, anyway), it's still a solid entry in the Cole & Pike canon.

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Amos Walker walks the mean streets of Detroit's Mexicantown in his latest outing, "Burning Midnight", as creator Loren D. Estleman sends him on a mission to help John Alderdyce's daughter-in-law save her young brother Ernesto from joining one of two feuding gangs.

As he attempts to find the youngster, Walker encounters the usual gamut of  opposition,  invariably meeting it with his head and an empty .38 revolver, as he finds himself caught in the middle of arson, murder and an impending gang war. All's not what it seems, however, as the veteran PI soon finds out...

Estleman's at the top of his form here, and although Walker's starting to show signs of wear and tear (he still hasn't recovered from his last case) there's still a few good miles left in him.

Here's to the next case...

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