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I promised myself that I was going to take it slow when I sat down to read “Sixkill,” the last Spenser novel completed by Robert B. Parker before his death in January 2010. While it has been announced that the series will be continued by mystery writer Ace Atkins, this would be my final opportunity to enjoy the adventures of the now-legendary Boston private detective through Parker’s unique prism.

The problem was, as soon as I sat down to read it, the noirish musicality of Parker’s famously reductionist prose grabbed me and simple momentum took over. Except to get myself a drink and fix dinner for my family - interruptions of which Parker no doubt would have approved - I read “Sixkill” straight through. And loved every moment.

As a reader and longtime fan of Parker’s work, it is hard for me to put aside the notion that this was his last book; I can’t imagine that he knew that as he sat down to do his usual ten pages per day. And yet, it is hard not to connect that reality with some of the aspects of the story that struck me as having an elegiac quality. There are echoes of previous books, like “Early Autumn,” in Spenser’s relationship with an Native American named Zebulon Sixkill, who goes through some of the same experiences that Paul Giacomin did in the earlier novel. Spenser doesn’t do any cooking in this book, and there are just passing mentions of Hawk; but there is a great deal of specificity about times and places that reflect his love of Boston, and meals and beverages and restaurants are described with a savvy eye of a man who loves to eat and drink. One cannot miss Spenser’s enduring tenderness for Susan Silverman, and how that reflects Parker’s own feelings about his wife, Joan.

There is more boxing in this book than in recent novels, which is good; I’ve sort of missed the scenes at Henry Cimoli’s gym. And there are plenty of gunfights and fistfights; this is, after all, a hard-boiled mystery novel from the man who revitalized the form with “The Godwulf Manuscript” back in 1973.

It was with misty eyes that I came to final pages of “Sixkill.” Not wanting it to end, but knowing it would, and then being completely jazzed by the resolution. No tidy bow here, because Parker never seemed to believe in that convention. He liked to say that his books were almost never about who stole the Maltese Falcon, but rather were about how people act, and should act, and the ambiguities that inform their behavior.

And then, it ended. But I suspect I won’t be alone in saying that if Parker’s Spenser had to have a coda, the last four paragraphs of “Sixkill” are perfect. Simple, brisk, illustrating character through action, and in the final analysis, telling us everything we need to know about Spenser.

Well done.




That’s it for this week.

Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

Slainte!
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