As always, Spenser will stick with an investigation and do the right thing even after he's been fired and warned off the case, no matter what the legal consequences or danger to himself. Acting on behalf of a dead girl found in the suite of nasty Hollywood actor Jumbo Nelson, Spenser finds himself on the wrong side of some very powerful and unpleasant players.
Zebulon Sixkill is not the first young man who has had the privilege to be mentored by Spenser, but sadly he is the last. This 39th book in the series seemed to be introducing Sixkill into the family as another memorable character when the unthinkable happened: Robert B. Parker succumbed to a heart attack that ended his amazing life. And, along with him, the lives of the characters we have come to know and love: Spenser, Susan, Hawk and all their posse members, Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, and the Western heroes Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. These losses have been difficult to deal with, but we must forge ahead. As the lyrics say, "Breathe in, breathe out, move on." And be happy that we can always go back and re-read our favorites.
I'm sure that SIXKILL will be among those favorites. There is not a dull moment in the story --- from the time that Boston P.D. Captain Quirk stops by to ask Spenser to look into the high-profile case involving Jumbo Nelson to the rousing conclusion. In his search for clues regarding the death of the young woman found in Jumbo's hotel room, Spenser uncovers some unsavory doings among the Los Angeles mob and certain movie producers involved with Jumbo. Apparently, it would not be in their best interest to have their top money maker convicted of murder.
Among those enlisted to dissuade Spenser's investigation is Zebulon Sixkill, who preferred to be called "Z," an Indian who arrived at his place in life by his own poor choices; and, to his credit, he did not try to blame anyone else. Like many who have tried before him, he was no match for the mighty Spenser and became part of the collateral damage when he and several thugs tried to attack our hero. Characteristically, Spenser felt bad for the young man because Z was pretty drunk at the time. So when Jumbo fired him for being a worthless loser, Spenser naturally took him home and began to impart some real wisdom and self-defense techniques to the young man. That way he won't have to work for a sot like Jumbo Nelson ever again.
When Z proves himself to be as adept a student as Spenser is a tutor, he leaps over from the Dark Side and becomes an invaluable help to his mentor. It's fun to see this initially shy, self-conscious young man begin cracking wise and emulating the impertinent ways of his teacher. For example, as the two prepare to meet the assassins, Spenser says, "It is a good day to die." Z looks at him and says, "For who?" Spenser says, "Old Indian saying." Z replies, "Paleface see-um too many movies." I love it.
As always, Robert B. Parker fans come to expect a great story, snappy dialogue and edgy confrontations; in this respect, SIXKILL does not disappoint. Perhaps it is my own nostalgia, but it seems as if this story has all the elements that we are going to have a hard time replacing. I've always suspected that a lot of Spenser and Jesse Stone, even Virgil and Hitch, sported some DNA from Parker. Such real characters can only be rooted in a real person. We will miss them all.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on May 16, 2011