It’s hot outside - and time for easy, relaxing summer reading. If you haven’t discovered Robert Parker or Bill Pronzini, you’re in for a real treat!
Each author has won the Grand Masters Award from the Mystery Writers of America for lifetime achievement and consistent quality. Both are well known for their long-running series starring a hard-working private investigator, but unfortunately Parker died early last year.
“Sixkill” (Putnam, $26.95) is the 39th in his best-selling and exceptionally popular series starring Boston private eye known simply as Spenser.
It’s the last one in the series that Parker completed, although his legacy will live on with other Spenser novels that will be written by Ace Atkins (author of “White Shadow” and “Wicked City”.
Spenser agrees to look into a case for Boston Homicide’s Captain Quirk involving the death of a young woman in the hotel room of Jumbo Nelson, an overweight actor/comedian. Nelson was in Boston filming a new movie; the studio has attorney Rita Fiore hire Spenser to clear Nelson.
Zebulon Sixkill, Nelson’s bodyguard, initially is a suspect; the drunken Cree Indian is fired by Nelson after being beaten up by Spenser.
Although an alliance between Spenser and Sixkill seems unlikely, Parker makes it work, deftly utilizing likable Sixkill as a prominent character.
Spenser’s longtime sidekick Hawk is still off somewhere in Asia, although there are many cameo appearances by others who have appeared in earlier novels.
With his usual snappy dialogue, fast pacing and strong character development, Parker is in fine form; this is one of the best books in a great series.
“Camouflage” by Bill Pronzini (Forge, $24.99) is the 38th in his series featuring San Francisco private eye known only as “the Nameless Detective”.
Business executive David Virden hires Nameless to deliver some papers to his first wife. He tracks her down, but she refuses to sign them.
Virden stops payment and threatens to sue, claiming that the detective hadn’t found the right woman. The case gets more complicate as Virden disappears.
As the Nameless Detective investigates, he unearths unnerving information and exposes a carefully created scheme. The result is totally unexpected and well orchestrated by Pronzini, one of today’s best crime novelists.
A secondary subplot showcasing Jake Runyon, another agency operative, is more personal. He’s looking into allegations that his girlfriend’s young son is being beaten by her ex-husband. There’s a dead woman involved; Runyon struggles to find a devious killer.