BOOK: Sixkill by Robert B. Parker (2011)

Well, I caved.  I had been planning to save the last Spenser novel (RIP, RBP) for as long as I could to avoid having to say goodbye to the old gang at last, but I didn’t manage to hold out very long.  I first started reading this series in high school and have spent the years since being over the moon every time a new installment came out. In fact, Parker was one of only two novelists I managed to nervously stammer out the names of when, during my first (only) radio interview about the Boyfriend of the Week site, the DJ dude asked me if I had any summer reading recommendations.  (The other writer was Tracy Chevalier, by the way; I erroneously described her as French.  Woo!  Nice work!)

Despite the fact the Spenser books kept getting shorter and shorter, with less and less satisfying endings (the last ten or so had endings that felt abrupt and rushed to me, as though Parker simply ran out of interest in his own stories), I never stopped loving the wonderful characters or the vividly drawn world in which they lived.  From Spenser to Susan, Hawk to Belson, and even the recurring bad guys in between, I truly felt like I had a relationship with the whole cast.  Their world became my world every time I cracked open a new cover, and it’s a world I will miss terribly.

This novel purports to be the last one Parker ever “finished,” but it didn’t seem to me he truly got it done.  There were a few things introduced that got dropped conspicuously by the end, for example, as though he’d been planning to get back to them and ran out of time.  Nevertheless, I still enjoyed it and I’m only sorry we’ll never get to learn more about the new character introduced in this one, a big, burly Native American bodyguard named Zebulon Sixkill.

The story opens with lawyer Rita Fiore begging Spenser to help her with her latest case, defending an obese, crass comedian/actor named Jumbo Nelson, accused of murdering a young woman he’d recently had sex with in his hotel room.  Jumbo swears he didn’t kill her, but the press is out for delicious, delicious celebrity blood.  Can Spenser find out the truth?

In his way, at least initially, is Jumbo’s bodyguard, the aforementioned Zebulon Sixkill.  But when Sixkill makes the mistake of losing a fist fight with Spenser, Jumbo fires him on the spot.  And Spenser?  Well, naturally, Spenser offers to make Sixkill his protegé, teaching him how to box so he’ll win the next fight he’s in.  (Spenser has always been a sucker for underdogs — one of the reasons I like him so much, I suppose.)  Through their training routine, the two men become buddies, Sixkill eventually saving Spenser’s butt more than once when the case takes a turn for the violent.

It’s not a great book — for one thing, I can’t even remember the ending, which is never a good sign, and for another, Sixkill ends up doing what most f Parker’s new characters always seem to end up doing:  talking just like Spenser.  I have long been annoyed by that — the way EVERYBODY in the series, especially in the later novels, is a super-intelligent razor-sharp wit (in real life, those gems are depressingly rare, I find).  But complaints aside, I’ve always been more than happy to overlook some flaws simply to have the excuse to spend more time with Spenser and his pals.  It’s been worth it.  Worth every single minute.

All in all, this isn’t the novel I wish Parker had gone out on; I wish it had been stronger.  But I’ll take it.  And if you were a fan of this series yourself, you probably ought to take it too.

Thanks for the stories, Mr. P.  You’ll be missed.

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3 Responses to “BOOK: Sixkill by Robert B. Parker (2011)”

  1. Pat Bailey Says:

    Haven’t read it, yet, but I will … even if it’s less than it should be. I’ve been reading RBP for years, too, and some of his books are my favourites (I have all of them). I was dealing with my Mom’s death in 2010 and didn’t find out Parker had died until two months later; I cried then, too. I’ll miss him …

  2. megwood Says:

    Aw, it’s nice to hear from a fellow fan! I cried when I heard the news too. Such a loss. 😦

  3. RogerBW Says:

    I’m working my way through the Spenser books now, after Meg mentioned them earlier this year – and very much enjoying them, though Hugger Mugger (the one I’ve just finished) does show signs of the abrupt ending that’s mentioned here.

    Thanks for the recommendation!

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