I read Cheap Shot on the flight to Minneapolis for Super Bowl LII, and considering the plot revolves around a New England Patriots’ player whom Spencer is hired to protect/keep out of trouble, it seemed appropriate.

The trouble, of course, finds star linebacker Kinjo Heywood, in a way both unexpected and more severe than we might expect when his son is kidnapped. Immediately Spenser is in his usual wisecracking trouble with the head of security for the Pats, with Heywood’s agent, his business manager/brother, and the FBI, all of whom want him off the case. And it’s a complicated case, going back to a nightclub shooting in New York a couple of years before, which may have involved Heywood’s crew. It’s as if Ray Lewis had come back to play for Bill Belichick.

I’ve reviewed Ace Atkins’ Spenser before and he gets the tone of the Parker novels better than any of the others I’ve read who’ve been carrying on with the characters. As in the last I reviewed, Lullaby, the main villain remains off-stage for most of the book, and in some ways we wonder if at least one of the sub-plots has been overlooked in the end. It was a complicated web which Atkins wove around the star player, which reflects perfectly the world of high-paid athletes in a violent, short-career sport.

One problem with the first-person narration is trying to fill out characters so we understand, not necssarily them, but their effect on others. In this case, Heywood’s second-wife seems sketchily drawn, and what we see of her leads us to wonder exactly what Heywood sees in her. While it’s obvious what Hawk sees in Heywood’s first wife, and long-time readers might feel disappointed not to see Hawk tamed at last.

Atkins does with Spenser what Parker did: build fast moving stories that centre on personalities, and Cheap Shot is another good example. Even if the Patriots did lose the Super Bowl without Heywood.

Robert B Parker’s Cheap Shot by Ace Atkins

No Exit Press, £8.99, ISBN 9781843444497

NOTE: This and many other reviews and essays, appear at Michael Carlson’s

Irresistible Targets (http://irresistibletargets.blogspot.com)

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