This review contains mild spoilers.
Book Name: Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland
Author: Ace Atkins
Series: #42 in an ongoing series
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass Market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Release Date: May 7th, 2013
Wonderland is Ace Atkins’ second go around with Robert B. Parker’s legendary character Spenser, and just like his first attempt in Lullaby Atkins comes up short against the high bar set by Parker. Atkins attempts to mimic Parker’s style, and while he has the action sequences figured out pretty well the dialogue and “down time” portions of the book generally miss the mark. Also, Atkins virtually ignores many of Parker’s supporting characters which leaves large holes in the story. Hawk is completely missing from the story, and while Susan does make an appearance it seems like it’s almost an afterthought.
Spenser’s sidekick in Wonderland is Zebulon Sixkill, a character introduced in Parker’s last Spenser book before he died, Sixkill. My guess is Parker intended “Zee” to be a tertiary character, but Atkins throws him and gym owner Henry Cimoli into the limelight in a plot that could have easily come from Parker. I feel Parker would have told the story better, and certainly would have included more of the supporting cast.
I know that Atkins will never be able to truly replace Parker, but in my opinion he does need to better capture the feel of a “Spenser” novel. Parker always had some little tidbits in his story to make the characters seem real, and that’s missing in Atkins’ books. Atkins is giving Spenser more of an edge than Parker did and in that regard I like where he’s taking the character, but he really does need to work more on the little things in this series. He also needs to keep the smart-assed comments by Spenser. Atkins plays those comments as sarcasm, but they’re not supposed to be.
Would I have rated the book higher were it not a Spenser book, but instead told of random characters with no history? I may have, but on the cover is says it’s a Spenser novel. And, unfortunately, it’s not a very good one. I will, however, keep buying them. I’ve read them all so far, no reason to stop now.
One thing I wish to add, and I want to make it clear this did not play any role at all in my liking the book: putting the author’s name in the title is dumb. Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland makes no sense because Parker played no role in the book other than creating the characters. The plot, dialogue, etcetera is Atkins’. I know the estate wants to keep Parker’s name on the book, but they should have gone with the format of “Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in…”. That makes tons more sense.