A Book Spy Review: ‘Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic’ By Ace Atkins


Old black magic.jpgTo investigate a decades-old crime, Spenser, the Boston-based private investigator, navigates the mysterious waters that are the black market art scene in Ace Atkins’ latest thriller, Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic

Twenty years after the infamous theft, the art world is still talking about the night that thieves stole three rare paintings from the Winthrop Museum. The perpetrators were never caught, and the paintings never recovered. Many believed the paintings were stashed away or sold, while others feared they were destroyed. 

Now, two decades later, new life is breathed into the cold case when Marjorie Ward, the Winthrop’s director, begins receiving mysterious letters that seem to provide proof that the paintings are out there.

Spenser, on the surface, doesn’t care about the Winthrop Museum or the people who run it — a feeling that is entirely mutual. In fact, the iconic PI only gets involved when Locke, an old friend and colleague, asks him to.  Sadly, Locke, who has tracked the case for many years, is dying. The ill investigator passes the case to Spenser, who is quick to point out that he has done art before, even if it’s not his area of expertise.

Of the three missing works, El Greco’s The Gentleman in Black, valued around $70 million, is considered the biggest prize of the bunch. However, when Marjorie Ward goes about getting them back — through means Spenser doesn’t agree with — things take a dark turn. Subsequently, Spenser is released from the case, and a fancy British investigator is brought in to replace him. The silver lining for Spenser is that he’s now freed up to pursue the paintings completely on his own, without any oversight from Marjorie or the Winthrop Museum. 

Deciding to see the case through, in part because of a massive reward the museum has offered to anyone who locates the paintings, Spenser goes back to the beginning to run down every lead. Instead, he finds that most of the detectives and police officers who originally worked the case are now retired. But it’s another revelation when he stumbles upon ties to the Boston mob that changes the course of the investigation. . . as things instantly become far more dangerous for Robert B. Parker’s legendary character. 

Ace Atkins continues to be right on the money, again churning out a fantastic novel to keep Spenser alive and well. What he’s done with this series since taking over after Parker’s death is incredible. Nothing against Jesse Stone and the job Reed Ferrell Coleman has done there (he’s been lights-out as well), but Atkins reigns supreme and brings a needed energy to Spenser and this beloved franchise.

Atkins’ portrayal of Spenser is true and authentic to the character Robert B. Parker created. Where he’s upped the ante is by infusing colorful secondary characters and villains into the plot, something he’s known for with his own Quinn Colson (The Fallen, etc.) series. That’s especially true with this book, as Spencer delves into the deep underworld of black market art deals and shady business dealings. 

Atkins brought his A-game yet again, delivering his best Spenser novel so far. . . Robert B. Parker’s Old Black Magic is a wild and fun ride, with a final twist that’s sure to leave readers heads’ spinning.

Book Details

Author: Ace Atkins
Series: Spenser #47
Pages: 336 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0399177019
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10



Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.

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