Book Review: Wonderland (A Spenser Novel) by Ace Atkins

WONDERLAND (A SPENSER NOVEL)

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: No Exit Press

Release Date: March 2014

Robert B. Parker may have died in 2010, but Spenser – his most famous creation – continues to live on… Boxing trainer Henry Cimoli and Spenser go way back, but the old man has never had to ask the private eye for a favour – until now. When a shadowy property developer attempts to buy up Henry’s condo on Revere Beach – and sends his thugs to help expedite the process – Spenser and his Native American apprentice Zebulon ‘Z’ Sixkill follow the trail to a charming but dangerous Las Vegas tycoon, only to discover that he isn’t the only person interested in the land. As in all good stories, carnage ensues!

Despite the fine reviews for his Quinn Colson series, I had yet to tackle a book by Ace Atkins – the crime writer selected by the estate of the late Robert B. Parker to continue his iconic Spenser series. Further, while I’ve read a whole bunch of Spenser mysteries over the years, I feel like I’ve read as many unconvincing ones as I have great ones, so this was something of a speculative purchase. Happily, Wonderland was a little cracker!

Whereas I have sometimes found Spenser’s idiosyncrasies off-putting in the past, Atkins weaves the source material into something new and improved. The knockabout tone he recreates is pitch-perfect, and his brand of literary ventriloquism feels like a genuinely affectionate tribute, but the storytelling verve is fresh and exciting. Factor in a slow-burning mystery, a succession of appropriately brutal fight scenes and a heavy-duty dose of emotional clout and you have a genuinely riveting novella. Regardless of your level of Spenser fandom, this bruising PI thriller is well worth checking out!

(Note: after finishing Wonderland I discovered that it is currently being filmed by Peter Berg for Netflix, with Mark Wahlberg in the lead role. The cast list suggests the story will deviate slightly from the novel – with Hawk installed as Spenser’s sidekick, rather than Z – but I’m intrigued nonetheless!)

Review by Tom Leins

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