Ace Atkins Borrows from Yesterday’s Headlines to Make His Case in ‘Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me’ [REVIEW]

Spenser’s new office sees plenty of action in Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me. (Photo courtesy Canva)

Robert B. Parker may have died more than a decade ago, but his famed private investigator Spenser is still going strong. In Someone to Watch Over Me, the 48th book in the long-running series, Ace Atkins takes us back to Boston, where our favorite P.I. hunts down a sleazy billionaire who is managing much more than other people’s money.

Robert B. Parker's Someone to Watch Over Me by Ace Atkins
G. P. Putnam’s Sons

If you read Ace Atkins’ freshman Spenser novel, Lullaby, back in 2012, you may remember Mattie Sullivan. She was only a scrappy teenager at the time, but Spenser helped her find her mother’s killer and take down a Southie crime boss. These days, Mattie is all grown up and going to college, working part time as Spenser’s protegee, being mentored by the master. Still as tenacious as we remember, she is eager to take on cases of her own.

Then Mattie learns about a 15-year-old girl named Chloe Turner who was paid to massage a wealthy older man at an exclusive private club, only to get assaulted in the process. Never able to overlook an injustice, Mattie is determined to help, even though the only thing Chloe wants is to get her backpack and laptop back, which she left behind when she fled the scene of the incident. But Mattie can’t stop there, and when she starts asking questions, she soon discovers that Chloe’s situation is only one of many similar exploits.

With help from Spenser, his longtime girlfriend Susan, his best friend Hawk, and some of Boston’s finest, they discover that the mystery man who assaulted Chloe is none other than an eccentric billionaire who has built his career by staying one step ahead of the law. But he doesn’t work alone and has plenty of friends in high places—friends who are willing to look the other way and even cover up his indiscretions. It quickly becomes apparent that this case is more than Mattie is prepared to handle on her own, no matter how tough she is. And as Spenser and the gang follow the case from Boston to Boca Raton and ultimately to the Bahamas—where they must face off with a dangerous old nemesis—there’s only one way Spenser can see this story ending.

I have been a longtime fan of the Spenser books, having read them since I discovered them in high school. Robert B. Parker always knew how to construct characters who kept us riveted to the page, and Spenser’s snarky wit, insatiable appetite, and love for classic jazz always kept me engaged as a reader. Now, having lived in Massachusetts, the books also appeal to me on a different level, because they transport me back to Boston, a city I truly came to love during my time there. Thankfully, Ace Atkins deftly carries Spenser’s mantle and the stories come to vibrant life just as much now as they always have. He’s definitely mastered writing Spenser’s sardonic wit too, and there are numerous passages here that simply had me laughing out loud, such as when he describes the shady attorney Greeble’s rather large teeth.

Atkins does his best to keep this story relevant to today’s headlines too. This case “borrows” quite obviously from the Jeffrey Epstein playbook. If you paid attention to the Epstein case as it unfolded in the news or read James Patterson’s Filthy Rich, you pretty much know what is going on in this book. Of course, Atkins isn’t the first one who has done so. I’ve seen episodes of NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and CBS’s The Good Fight which also tackled this sordid tale. But Atkins does put the Spenser twist on it, so it doesn’t play out exactly like the Epstein case. Still, it is pretty darn close with the wealthy billionaire, the private island, the uber rich friends and political allies. In this way, the case just wasn’t as fresh as I’d hoped it could have been. Thankfully Spenser and the gang kept me entertained enough I was able to overlook it.

Is this the best of the Spenser books? No. Will it prevent me from picking up the next volume in the series? Definitely not. Despite its faults, Someone to Watch Over Me is still a fun diversion which kept me entertained, had me laughing, and helped me build my Spenser playlist along the way (I always learn about musicians I never heard of before when I read the books). If an author can engage me that much in the midst of a pandemic, he’s definitely doing something right. And although I must admit that Atkins may not have knocked the ball beyond the back wall of Fenway Park, he definitely has the chops to keep me rooting for him the next time he comes up to bat.

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Robert B. Parker and Ace Atkins
Robert B. Parker (left) and Ace Atkins (right)
(Photo of Robert B. Parker by John Earle;
Photo of Ace Atkins courtesy Ace Atkins/Facebook)

Robert B. Parker was the author of 70 books, including the legendary Spenser detective series, the novels featuring Police Chief Jesse Stone, and the acclaimed Virgil Cole-Everett Hitch Westerns, as well as the Sunny Randall novels. Winner of the Mystery Writers of America Grand Master Award and long considered the undisputed dean of American crime fiction, he died in January 2010. For more information, visit RobertBParker.net and like him on Facebook.

Ace Atkins is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 books, including 10 books in his Quinn Colson series. Handpicked by the Robert B. Parker Estate nearly a decade ago to continue the Spenser series, he’s written nine novels about the iconic private eye. He lives and works in Oxford, Mississippi. For more information, visit AceAtkins.com, like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

ROBERT B. PARKER’S SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME
By Ace Atkins
320 pp. G.P. Putnam’s Sons. $27.

Buy Robert B. Parker’s Someone to Watch Over Me direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Half Price Books, Hudson Booksellers, IndieBound, Powell’s, Target or Walmart.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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