Ace Atkins
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.


KIRKUS REVIEW

Spenser heads back to the Boston suburbs to help a mother whose son has been arrested for—wait for it—setting up a fake Twitter account.

When you’re the sort of kid who steps out of line in Blackburn, Judge Joe Scali knows what to do with you. Just ask Jake Cotner, who got nine months at the barbaric juvenile camp on Fortune Island for breaking windows in an old warehouse, or Ryan Bell, who did six months for throwing a steak at his crazy stepmother. But Sheila Yates, whose son Dillon has just drawn nine months for “stalking and terrorism” after posting humiliating tweets on an account he set up in the name of Blackburn High Vice Principal Luke Waters, isn’t about to take Dillon’s sentence lying down. She hires Spenser, who assures her, “I would’ve paid you to take this on,” and he goes into overdrive. So does the hanging juvie judge, along with his patron, district judge Gavin Callahan, every cop in Blackburn, and—once Spenser, as foretold by the imprudently spoiler title, has tied the rash of imprisoned kids to a for-profit corporation working hand in hand with the mob—a bunch of hard cases who clearly aren’t impressed by Spenser’s resume (Robert B. Parker’s Cheap Shot, 2014, etc.). Interpolated scenes at Fortune Island don’t intensify the suspense but simply break up the momentum.

The ritualistic series of face-offs will be red meat for franchise fans, and it’s great to see Spenser tackle a social evil with its roots in real life, even though his rescue of Dillon predictably fails to put much of a dent in even little Blackburn’s prison-for-profit scheme.


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