Spenser goes to Hollywood.
In the two years since she’s moved from Cambridge to Los Angeles in pursuit of stardom, Gabrielle Leggett has been a dog walker, a personal assistant, a model, an actress, a media influencer, and now, for the past two weeks, a missing person. The LAPD knows about Gabby’s disappearance, but her mother, dissatisfied with their efforts, sends Spenser (Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic, 2018, etc.) out to the Left Coast to do the job right. Predictably, Gabby’s agent and former romantic partner, Eric Collinson, doesn’t want to talk to him. Neither does Jeffrey Bloom, the acting coach who thought Gabby had just dropped out of his class, or Jimmy Yamashiro, the married studio CEO who took Collinson’s place. And the only thing publicist Nancy Sharp, Gabby’s ex-boss, wants to talk about is how much fun she and Spenser could have if he’d only lighten up. Eventually Spenser works his contacts to get an audience with Yamashiro, but the results are less than impressive. He must be making an impression, though, because five Armenian thugs ambush him and shoot his West Coast associate, Zebulun Sixkill, in the arm, disabling him and requiring Spenser to look for another sidekick. Eventually he gets a lead that connects Gabby to Joseph Haldorn, aka Phaethon, the founder of HELIOS, a hush-hush organization that promises self-actualization and conducts itself suspiciously like a cult. But instead of thickening, the mystery surrounding Gabby just gets more violent and diffuse. Surprisingly, Atkins gets the hardest parts right—his hero/narrator now sounds indistinguishable from Robert B. Parker’s—but bogs down in the plotting, the area in which he presumably had the freest hand. As for the cod-out-of-water milieu, it evokes not so much particular SoCal locations as dozens of earlier SoCal whodunits.
Readers who’ve always wanted to see Spenser in Tinseltown can cross that off their bucket lists.