Robert B. Parker's Lullaby (Audio) - Ace Atkins, Joe Mantegna

Found this book while looking for a break from SF space operas. Have read a few Spenser books in the past and recall enjoying a number of them. (Quick research: there are 40 of these books written by [a:Robert B. Parker|397|Robert B. Parker|], who passed away in 2010.) I was intrigued by Lullaby because its by a new writer, [a:Ace Atkins|140695|Ace Atkins|], who had an entry in the Edgar for best novels for 2013. Plus, it was short enough.

Overall, I liked the book. Though the plot is straightforward and the prose nearly like a Dr. Seuss book, the book does capture (or continues) Spenser's (and Hawk's) droll charm, pitch-perfect on the reckless disregard for their own health and safety. The narrative oscillates from pensive observations on Bostonian life (making me realize I have not visited the Home of Green in a while, in particular after the Marathon bombing) to swift, pounding violence. Spenser and Hawk (and Susan) engage in thrust-and-parry repartee that is remarkable for the avoidance of any reference to their actuals thoughts and any hint of what's to happen next. This is all quite formulaic (a formula perhaps developed from the PhD research of Parker on detective novels, and perhaps in conformance with the Parker estate's requirements) but hewing more to the early Spenser of the 80s and 90s than the post-Y2K Spenser. Even the addition of the haunted character of Maddie recalls the time of the compassionate and soft-hearted Spenser, with her strong will masking inner turmoil and held back despondency. But, it all works. Spenser and Maddie engage in a fast break narrative give-and-go that delivers a satisfying conclusion.

An incidental observation: On scenes of violence, writer and reader play a second-guessing game. The violence cannot be too lethal as to kill off any of the lead characters (probably not good for a 41+ book series), but it cannot be inconclusive or passive either. Casualties are expected, in an equitable (between each group of protagonists) and reasonably realistic manner. As the scene unfolds, the reader discerns from the choice of words and small details what the writer has in mind, who will be killed off or seriously injured. The writer walks a thin line of credibility to pull these scenes off. For the most part, I think Atkins pulled them off.

The old cathode tube TV blinked a couple times before the image of Spenser dissolved into a series of horizontal lines, then faded to gray. But then some men in blue came and took the tube away, and returned with a shiny new LED flat screen, hanging it on a stud on the wall. And so, brightly colored, the lines on his face more evident at the higher resolution, Spenser came back from folk limbo, to a literary resurrection.

Quite a pleasant return, holding a promise of continuity for a beloved series, hopefully catching the attention of a new generation of readers.