DEVIL’S GARDEN by Ace Atkins


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Facing a manslaughter rap, big-time movie star Fatty Arbuckle gets the Pinkerton agent Dashiell Hammett working on his behalf.

In September 1921, you can argue endlessly about who’s funnier, Chaplin or Arbuckle, whose face shines with ersatz innocence as he takes those earthshaking pratfalls. But there’s nothing funny about Arbuckle’s private life, which runs to nonstop booze, floozies and wild parties. The saturnalia at the St. Francis Hotel is merely typical until the girl in Suite 1219 turns up dead, causing the San Francisco authorities to pay particular attention. Arrest and indictment follow in short order. According to the prosecution, Virginia Rappe met her untimely end crushed under the importunate bulk of Roscoe Arbuckle. It’s an allegation lurid enough to enchant the whole avid world of yellow journalism. Though the evidence against Arbuckle is far from overwhelming, the defense is jumpy. Enter ace Pinkerton operative Sam Hammett, who’s not yet calling himself Dashiell. Coughing blood, obviously suffering from TB, he remains every skinny inch a detective’s detective, slogging toward some kind of truth through the moral and ethical despond known as the Arbuckle Case.

Atkins (Wicked City, 2008, etc.) writes so well that some readers—but not all—will forget to ask if that’s enough to validate time spent with irredeemable lowlifes in a modern-day Sodom.

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-399-15536-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2009


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Ace Atkins
June 2, 2015

P.I. Spenser, knight-errant of the Back Bay, returns in Kickback, the latest in the iconic New York Times–bestselling series from author Ace Atkins. What started out as a joke landed 17-year-old Dillon Yates in a lockdown juvenile facility in Boston Harbor. When he set up a prank Twitter account for his vice principal, he never dreamed he could be brought up on criminal charges, but that’s exactly what happened. This is Blackburn, Massachusetts, where zero tolerance for minors is a way of life. Leading the movement is tough-as-nails Judge Joe Scali, who gives speeches about getting tough on today’s wild youth. But Dillon’s mother, who knows other Blackburn kids who are doing hard time for minor infractions, isn’t buying Scali’s line. She hires Spenser to find the truth behind the draconian sentencing. “It’s great to see Spenser tackle a social evil with its roots in real life,” our reviewer writes. View video >


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