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Bye Bye Baby

I just finished Bye Bye Baby, the latest in Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. (By “just finished” I mean that I stayed up last night until I had devoured it which is how I end up reading this series.) This is my favorite sleuth, my favorite series and one that I never get tired of.


Ace Atkins took over Spenser a few years after Robert B. Parker died. I was skeptical at the time. I don’t generally care for the continuation of a series after the original author is gone. But Parker did the same thing with one of Raymond Chandler’s books, Poodle Springs. So, I reluctantly gave it a try after the first book, Lullaby, had been out for a while. And boy am I glad I did. Atkins nails Spenser and Hawk. And most of the time Susan is dead on, too. The language, the dialogue, the flow… it all works. Atkins has the pacing, the character traits, the many side characters. He’s a fan, he gets it and that is abundantly clear in his writing.


Have all of his Spenser installments been right on the mark? No. The last couple waned a bit for me, and I didn’t feel like Susan was quite right. The dialog seemed a bit off in the last book. It just wasn’t quite there. But with Bye Bye Baby, it’s all here, it’s right, it’s classic.


Case in point:

“Planning on doing more than just poking around and annoying people?” (Susan)
“Why mess with a winning formula?” (Spenser)

And that is the whole book. Which is basically all the books. It occurred to me a few weeks ago, in discussing cozy vs. noir with my husband, that that’s pretty much the way noir works. The detective wanders around, constantly wondering what’s going on, asking questions, bugging people, and then all of a sudden, it coalesces and makes sense, and the detective has it all figured out.


Does that describe mysteries in general? Sure, I suppose so. But in all the noir I’ve read (not as much as cozies, but a very close second), there is a lot of driving around, poking at seemingly random people, watching, and waiting to see what happens. I feel like the cozies have a lot more talking, a little more snooping, and some random action and scheming.


Bye Bye Baby is a current events type book. I wasn’t crazy about it going into it because I just do not want to read one more book based on true events, or even current events. Somehow, even though that was central to the story, it didn’t overwhelm the story. It turned out to be very well handled and written and enjoyable to read. I was afraid it would be a slog because I read these as a bit of escapism and don’t want to be pulled back into the current state of the world. This book didn’t do that. I got to escape into Spenser’s world, and it was funny and enjoyable.


For as skeptical as I was at the beginning, I hope these keep going, at least for a while. This is the 50th installment of Spenser. It’s all borrowed time right now, of course, and Ace Atkins could stop whenever he wanted to, I imagine. But he’s a fan himself so I think, I hope, we’ve got some more Spenser to look forward to.


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