Sixkill, the 39th Spenser novel, was also the last book by Robert B. Parker. Ace Atkins will write future books in the series, as agreed by the estate. Other families have tried to continue series with mixed results. Robert Goldsborough wrote seven books about Nero Wolfe after Rex Stout died. After Lawrence Sanders' death, Vincent Lardo wrote six McNally books. I tried both series, and gave up on them. I'll keep my fingers crossed for Atkins. Spenser was my favorite private investigator, and this last book by Parker would have been an appropriate culmination.
Even the opening chapter of Sixkill is filled with the witty conversations Spenser was known for. Quirk, Spenser's police captain friend, shows up to ask for help in a complicated situation. Jumbo Nelson, a well-known actor, is a person of interest in a murder investigation. A twenty-year-old girl is dead following sex with Jumbo. Everyone from the governor to the newspapers likes Jumbo for the death. But, Quirk is a little dubious and doesn't want to see an innocent man railroaded, no matter how sleazy the actor may be. He asks Spenser to investigate, on behalf of Jumbo's attorney, Rita Fiore.
Unfortunately for Jumbo, he doesn't like Spenser's attitude, and wants to fire Spenser and Rita. He also sets his bodyguard, Zebulon Sixkill, on Spenser. When Spenser knocks Sixkill on his ass, Jumbo fires him. With no place to go, the Cree Indian ends up asleep outside Spenser's office. Now, Spenser has an investigation and a protégé.
I read all 39 Spenser books, so I just might not remember Parker providing background for a character in the way he did for Sixkill. He dribbles out bits and pieces of Sixkill's life in the course of the book. The style works perfectly with Spenser's unquestioning methods of working with Sixkill. With Hawk out of town, Spenser builds Zebulon Sixkill into another man to watch his back when there's serious opposition to Spenser's investigation into Jumbo Nelson's role in the death of Dawn Lopata. Had Parker continued the series, Zebulon Sixkill might have been a fascinating new back-up for Spenser.
For anyone who read, and will miss, the Spenser series, this book actually provides a satisfying finale. Despite the fact that Hawk is missing in action, we get the chance to remember most of Spenser's friends and allies. Most of them are mentioned in the course of the book when Susan Silverman is mentioning back-up for Spenser in his latest quest that alienates dangerous opposition. And, whether or not you're a reader that liked Susan and Pearl, they're present. In fact, it's Susan who actually provides the suitable eulogy for Spenser. "Sometimes I think you are far too kind for your own good." Other times, "I think you are the hardest man I've ever seen."
I'm going to miss Robert B. Parker's literate, wiseass detective with his code of conduct, and his fascinating sidekicks.
Sixkill by Robert B. Parker. G.P. Putnam's Sons. ©2011. ISBN 9780399157264 (hardcover), 293p.
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