Friday, 15 August 2014

Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins

I had dressed for Chestnut Hill: a button-down tattersall shirt that Susan had bought me, crisp dress khakis, a navy blazer with gold buttons, and a pair of well-broken-in loafers worn without socks.

I like Mr. Atkins. I enjoy his sparse prose style and simple, yet vivid characterization. I also like Parker, though I've only read a couple of things by him; I'm much more familiar with Atkins's work. I find many, if not most, crime novels and thrillers have protagonists that are pretty much the same persona with different names, clothes and backgrounds. Atkins, however, manages to treat his lead characters a little differently, if you are able to pay close enough attention. He also doesn't waste much time pulling the reader into the plot.

This opening line, however, stinks. Who cares what this dude is wearing? Why is this essential to know at the beginning of a story before conflict? Why is this ever essential? Why should I care? Will the clothes make this guy stand out; will he be targeted by the anti-khakis establishment, hunted down stripped of his blazer and burned alive on a heap of his clothes?

The next line makes an attempt to make the opening line vital, but I ain't buying it:

The lack of socks implied a devil-may-care attitude understood by the wealthy.

The opening continues by explaining that the narrator is going to meet a client who is an NFL football player. The tone of a Spenser novel is established right away with some of that humor as early as page 2 and a mystery surfaces around the same time. Someone is following this NFL player and Spenser is hired to find out why.

First thing said:

"You can't discuss this case with anyone, Mr.Spenser."

On a side note, there seems to be a lot of this type of novel, or rather this type of marketing ploy these days. Attach a dead author's name to a title and have an established writer write a novel based on characters or setting created by said dead writer. It's professional money grabbing fan fiction at its best and further evidence that either publishers are running out of ideas and believe creativity is drying up, or readers don't want anything new.

The opening line is an epic fail, but the opening quickly transitions to a scene in which character and conflict take over. The title and byline hook don't hurt either, but that's a little like cheating with a hook.

Verdict: Pass (barely)

Theodore Moracht

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