SIXKILL By Robert B. Parker [Review]
When Robert B. Parker died last year, I bid farewell to one of my favorite authors. Of course, just because he was gone didn’t mean his most famous character, Spenser, was quite finished. Painted Ladies was published posthumously in October, and now, in SIXKILL, Spenser makes his 39th, and sadly, last appearance.
With Sixkill, Parker returns to the familiar territory of movie making and the occasional sleaze of movie stardom—in this case Jumbo Nelson. Though a major star, Jumbo is a “bad boy” with a reputation that has been fairly earned—booze, woman and general debauchery. When a young woman is found raped and murdered in his room, Jumbo is arrested, but there is enough “off” in the case that the Boston PD, specifically, Capt. Martin Quirk, calls in Spenser.
During the course of his investigation, Spenser meets, then takes under his wing, Jumbo’s bodyguard, Zebulon “Z” Sixkill. This relationship is what truly forms the meat of the story, and while they investigate the murder, Spenser undertakes the task of teaching Z to be all that he can be. I’m not being snide with that remark, anyone who’s read Spenser will understand what I mean. Spenser has a hard code, one he has lived by for a long time and in passing it along, he is passing on who he is to the next generation.
Sixkill is quintessential Spenser; less about the crime than about the human condition. I think that is what has always drawn me to these books, and what I will miss the most. There was a line, a long, long time ago in Early Autumn when Spenser was explaining his friend Hawk to a very young Paul and Spenser said “He’s a good man, but he does bad things.” That ambiguity, that has long marked the Spenser series, is back in full force with Sixkill. I missed in a little in Painted Ladies, and I didn’t realize how much until I read this one. Towards the end Spenser and Sixkill discuss themselves, who they are and how they have to live—and see themselves. It’s a very telling moment both for Z and Spenser, that understanding, that knowing who they are and how they live and how that will define them forever. The way it always has been for Spenser, the way it always will be now for Z.
This is an incredibly poignant moment for me, reading the last page, closing the cover on this book knowing that I won’t have the chance to open a new Spenser novel from Robert B. Parker ever again. It’s the loss of a close friend. I spent many a book worrying that Spenser would go out in a blaze of glory, a volley of gunfire or an attack that even Hawk didn’t see coming. I could actually see Parker doing something like that, and having an epilogue from Quirk or Hawk, Susan or Paul. But, this ending, it was… it was utterly perfect. For a man who lived his life in violence, this was so quiet it was lovely. It reminded me of the ending of John Ford’s She Wore A Yellow Ribbon, when the sergeant rides off into the west, which is the end of the trail for all men. So, too, does Spenser go quietly into the west.
Sixkill is Spenser and Parker at their absolute best. Fast-paced action, witty dialogue, erudite, and that philosophical undertone that makes Parker one of the truly great writers of the modern age. This is a book that is not to be missed.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Putnam Adult | Pages: 304 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon