Publisher: The Penguin Group
63 Chapters; 310 Pages
Drug addicted prostitutes are often killed on the streets. This is a fact of life, for those who live “the life”. Tragically, it happens all too often.
But why would anyone murder Julie Sullivan in such a brutal and public fashion?
Four years ago, Julie was sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly. When it became apparent that she was still alive and kicking, the assailant ran her over with his car.
Her body was easy enough to find. It was almost as if the killer wanted her found. She was dumped on a construction site. Was the killer sending some kind of message?
Four years later, Julie’s 14 year old daughter, Mattie, has her own theories about her mother’s murder. And she’s not shy about presenting those theories to ace Boston detective, Spenser.
Marching into his office, on a cold winter’s day, and offering to pay him “five crumpled twenties and a ten”, she makes her position quite clear.
Her mom was not murdered by the patsy that the police tagged for the crime. In fact, said “patsy” was Mickey Green a long-time friend of Julie’s who spent much of his time helping her with odd-jobs, and basically attaching himself to her.
Mickey Green had many faults: Drug addiction, Breaking and entering, aggravated assault, car theft, and so on. But Mickey just wouldn’t lower himself to murdering his good buddy Julie.
Mattie is firmly convinced of his innocence. She’d witnessed her mom being abducted and forced into a vehicle the night she was murdered. And Mickey was no where near the scene.
But two “friendly” neighborhood drug dealers named “Pepper” and “Moon” were certainly there. In fact, they were the ones who forced Julie Sullivan into that car, very much against her will.
And did Mattie report what she saw to the police, Spenser inquires. Her answer: “they gave me a pat on the head and a card about some shrink so I could “talk about my trauma.’
Nice! I guess it’s so much easier to grab the obvious loser type rather than believe some kid who couldn’t possibly know what she’s talking about anyway.
To give the Boston PD their due, that was Green’s car that was used in the murder. And that car had the victim’s blood on it. As far as the police are concerned, this homicide is a “no-brainer”.
Of course there is a little thing called “motive” that might be considered. Well, everyone knows that when 2 drug addicted persons get together, anything can happen, right? Case closed!! Have a happy life behind bars, Mickey.
This is the situation that the highly successful private investigator Spenser finds himself in when he accepts this rather unusual and angry client.
He’ll have a box of donuts as payment, and a bunch of reluctant witnesses, cops, and gangsters who are determined to keep Mickey Green in jail, and Mattie Sullivan quite.
And Mattie Sullivan is just as determined to expose the truth about her mother’s death, with or without help from anyone, including Spenser.
Poor detective Spenser! Talk about being stone-walled.
He encounters Bobby Barrett, 45 year old police officer working out of South Boston. He’d arrested Mickey Green several times before Julie’s murder. Officer Barrett caught Mickey red-handed washing blood off his car at a car wash.
Theresa Donovan had known Julie for years. She thinks Mickey is guilty as sin. Or does she? For some odd reason, she disappears shortly after her meeting with Spenser.
Lesley “Moon” Murphy and his partner “Red” Cahill flatly deny killing Julie. Well, anyway, Red denies killing her.
Moon is not…well let’s just say he’s not too terribly bright. He does what he’s told. It’s obvious that Red is the brains in this little partnership. This, I must say, isn’t saying very much.
Both of these “gems” work for crime-boss Gerry Broz. Gerry Broz’s dad Joe Broz is a legend in Boston crime circles. His family once ruled South Boston.
Gerry would love to bring back the good old days. Unfortunately, Gerry is nothing like his father. He’s weak and is constantly trying to prove otherwise. He hates Spenser with a passion. His father hated Spenser as well, but at least the old man did give the ace investigator his respect.
Do you think Spenser is going to get any cooperation from people like this?
And then let me not forget FBI Agent Tim Connor. He has been staking out Gerry Broz’s operation for 2 years. He certainly doesn’t appreciate Spenser butting in and upsetting all of his hard “work”.
I mean all this fuss just to get some drug-addicted loser out of prison?
Even Spenser’s long-time associate, and shooter, Vinnie Morris wants no part of this case. Vinnie feels that he has ties and obligations to Joe Broz which can’t possibly be broken. It’s an old-school, mobster kind of code of honor.
And what does any of this have to do with a small-time, murdered prostitute? Julie Sullivan did purchase drugs from “Moon” and “Pepper”. But that seems to be the extent of their relationship. Or was it?
The only people who really seem genuinely interested in helping Spenser figure this mess out are the usual cast of characters that you will find in any Spenser for Hire novel.
There is Susan Silverman, Spenser’s long-time girlfriend. She is extremely intelligent, attractive, witty, and sometimes boring.
And then there is Spenser’s right arm, Hawk, who is always ready to go to the wall and proves it in this installment.
Homicide Squad Commander, Quirk is here. He believes Mickey Green is guilty as sin, but is willing to give Spenser the support he needs to prove otherwise.
Spenser’s hot, sexy lawyer Rita Fiore makes a strong appearance as well. Honestly, this time around I don’t think Spenser could have solved this case without her help. Personally, I wish Spenser would “get with” Rita and dump Susan. This is just my opinion, however.
But, of course the real star in this crime drama is Mattie Sullivan. Sad, tough, strong-willed and gutsy, she almost drives Spenser crazy. I liked her from the moment she bullied her way into his life.
I like the way she takes responsibility for her younger siblings and the way she seeks justice. Don’t try to pat “little Mattie” on top of the head and send her off to bed. You just might get your arm chewed off.
II. My Judgment of this murder book
As all of you Spenser for Hire fans know, the creator of this mystery thriller series, Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010.
Like all of you, I was saddened when I heard of his death and I just assumed that Spenser would die along with him.
In 2011, the Spenser estate chose Ace Atkins to continue the series. I can say that after reading this book, Mr. Parker’s legacy is in good hands. Atkins is a fine crime thriller author and I look forward to reading his other works as well.
Here we have the same short chapters, and the same snappy, funny dialog, which make for a quick, enjoyable read, even for someone who reads as slow as I do. The action moves very quickly from one scene to the next.
But most important, I never got the impression that Mr. Parker was gone. I mean, I know he is no longer with us, but it’s almost as if he was standing over Mr. Atkins’ shoulder.
It’s not that Atkins was copying Parker. I really don’t quite know how to explain it.
All I can say is that Spenser, Susan, Pearl, Hawk, and all the rest are still alive and well in all their glory. And if Atkins continues to write in this way, I will definitely keep reading.
If you would like more information regarding Robert B. Parker and Ace Atkins, you can find it here.
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