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Spenser fiddles while Boston burns.

It began a year ago with a fire in Holy Innocents, a South End church that burned to the ground with three firefighters trapped in the basement. Despite all the fires that have followed, Capt. Jack McGee, a close friend of Lt. Pat Dougherty, has been stonewalled at every turn by the authorities, who insist they can’t even be sure fires were set at two different places, as Dougherty claimed just before becoming one of those victims, and he wants Spenser to ask the tough questions, without of course mentioning McGee's name. Never reluctant to take on the world’s troubles, Spenser makes the rounds, and in no time at all he’s succeeded in antagonizing members of the police department, the arson squad, and the Sparks Association, whose members devote themselves to providing aid and comfort to Boston’s firefighters. More consequentially, the questions he asks Tommy "Tommy Torch" Torccelli, the veteran arsonist doing time for kiddie porn, also bring him up against Jackie DeMarco, a crime lord who’s never been a fan of Spenser’s. None of which would be a big problem if DeMarco and Tyler King, his designated arsonist, were actually behind the blazes. But they’re not; as Atkins (Robert B. Parker’s Kickback, 2015, etc.) makes clear from the get-go, the real arsonists are a trio of wannabe firefighters who think they can rally public support and funding for the Boston Fire Department by showing everyone how thinly its resources are stretched. If you think this motive sounds implausible, just consider how much it would explain about the current activities of Congress.

Not much energy or conviction in the larger rhythms of this case, but the scene-by-scene, line-by-line pleasures are authentic enough.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-399-17085-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2016

Kirkus Interview
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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