December 15, 2014

Sixkill in Cheap Shot

I discussed the debut of Zebulon Sixkill in Sixkill, Robert B. Parker's last Spenser mystery. After Parker's death, author Ace Atkins has continued the series and Sixkill's role in it.

Cheap Shot is the third of Atkins's Spenser books. Here's the story:

Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot (Spenser)From Booklist
Kinjo Heywood is a ferocious middle linebacker for the New England Patriots, but he has a penchant for off-the field violence as well. When he thinks he’s being followed, his agent hires Boston private investigator Spenser to find and discourage the followers. ... The three thugsters—Spenser, longtime running buddy Hawk, and Spenser’s protégé Z—employ their usual investigative techniques of intimidation and smart-ass repartee in the service of solving the case. Atkins’ third shot at the Spenser caseload shows steady improvement over the first two. Spenser is as tough and funny as ever, and Atkins has become a worthy successor. --Wes Lukowsky


“Assured... Atkins’s gift for mimicking the late Robert B. Parker could lead to a long run, the the delight of Spenser devotees.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A well-conceived adventure that balances Spenser and friends’ experience with Akira’s innocence while drawing on Atkins’ own Auburn football days.”

—Crimespree Magazine

Cheap Shot is the best yet, with a whip-crack plot, plenty of intriguing and despicable characters, and the lovable, relentless Spenser at its center….Atkins also has a deft way with Parker's style… Atkins is bringing his own energy and strengths to Parker's series. Cheap Shot is Spenser, by the book.”

—Tampa Bay Times
Native aspects

Zebulon "Z" Sixkill is only a supporting character in Cheap Shot. He might or might not make a list of the top 10 characters in the book.

But it's nice to see Atkins continuing to use him. Sixkill adds some fresh blood to the Spenser formula.

Sixkill's background as a Cree Indian is mentioned a few times, but it's mostly ignored. That's the way it should be. Being Indian will come up occasionally if you spend time with an Indian, but that's about it.

It's like anyone's ethnicity, religion, job, childhood, hobbies, etc. It'll come up now and then, but it's rarely the center of attention.

Parker overdid it in Sixkill. Perhaps a quarter of Spenser's interactions with Sixkill made some reference to his being an Indian. That's way too much.

As for the rest of Cheap Shot, it was a solid mystery until the end. Then Spenser and company got handed a few too many answers without working for them, and it petered out.

Still, Atkins did an excellent job of mimicking Parker's style. Cheap Shot was at least as good as the typical Spenser book by Parker--maybe better. The books aren't great literature, but they are entertaining diversions.

Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.

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