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145 of 151 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2011
The 39th Spenser mystery, SIXKILL, is a good one. Our hero investigates a rape/murder case on a Boston film location, and the suspect is the star of the movie, a monstrously spoiled matinee idol named Jumbo Nelson. Jumbo's outrageous antics always create headlines, not to mention headaches for his employers (sound familiar?). Spenser also gets to know Jumbo's bodyguard, Zeb Sixkill, an interesting young man who soon bonds with our hero. By the time they get to the bottom of the mystery, we've learned a lot about the Hollywood studio system, modern-day celebrity, and our own fascination with all things famous and/or notorious. And we get a lot of wisecracks from Spenser, whose observations are always hilarious.

As much as SIXKILL entertained me, it also made me a little sad. We lost Robert B. Parker last year, and this is his last completed Spenser novel. Last week his publishers announced that his detectives, including Spenser, will continue in stories written by other authors. I hope those books are half as good as Parker's. I've been reading this series all my life, and Spenser, Hawk, and Susan are almost like family. It takes a great artist to create fictional people who can seem so real, and I'm grateful for all the wonderful books he gave us. He will be missed.
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112 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2011
A lot of stuff happens in Sixkill. It's a fairly action-packed and standard chapter of clearly the greatest series in the history of the genre. And it's also impossible, at this point, to talk about without the context of the author's passing early last year.

Sixkill is described on the flap as "the last Spenser novel completed by Robert B. Parker". A reasonable mind could take that to mean there will be more, perhaps, and that it will completed by someone else. Amazon is already taking pre-orders on a Jesse Stone novel written by the guy that does the Selleck TV-movies. So clearly there are plans. But, well, you know. Not the same.(UPDATED 10/4/11--Ace Atkins has been hired to continue the Spenser Series)

Point being, we should take no finality poignance from the events in Sixkill, as it was clearly not meant to provide any. But poignant is exactly what Sixkill becomes. Its' point is redemption/renewal and it's made in classic Parker style, going back to Early Autumn in more than one way in telling the story of one Zebulon Sixkill.

Z, as he comes to be called, is a Cree Indian bodyguard that Spenser puts a beat-down on while commencing the novel's case: the death of a young girl in Z's client's hotel room. Spenser is brought into the case by Capt. Martin Quirk, whom you've met.

Quirk is pretty sure that one Jumbo Nelson, Hollywood Miscreant/Icon, is being railroaded for murder, so he asks Spens to sniff around and see what stinks. Enter Rita Fiore, who happens to be defending Jumbo, and the stage is set for what Parker did better than just about anyone.

After Z gets canned by Jumbo for getting whupped, he consults Spenser, who agrees to help train him as a mechanism to among other things, get his help solving the case. Parker inserts episodes from Z's early years as Z and Spenser start training at Henry Cimoli's gym, among other locations. Of course, it's all about Z finding himself. And in Zebulon Sixkill, Parker creates a fascinating character, walled-off like a supermax prison. The fun in watching Spenser, with help from Susan Silverman, of course, re-introduce Z with his real self carries its own thrills.

There's plenty of regular thrills here as well. Parker stages a couple of great fist-fights and brings in some other new creepy dudes as well. Lots of cameos by the dangerous types who have helped Spens out in the past....except for, well, Hawk. Yeah, he's still in East Somewhere, so folks looking for those two hamming it up will have to look elsewhere. (Try A Catskill Eagle.) The last act moves really fast, with a gut-wrenching final showdown that's among Parker's best.

With Sixkill, Parker provides another solid chapter in the saga. Better than some, worse than others. No earth-shattering changes, and lots of Spenser/Susan navel-gazing. But it still feels great to read.

We miss him already.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2011
Happily got this book downloaded as soon as it was available. While I did enjoy the story, I could not rid myself of the sadness of knowing that Mr. Parker's last Spenser novel left us wanting one more adventure with Hawk. It seemed apparent to me that Sixkill was written to become a continuing character for future novels. As other have mentioned, there were visits from many of the familiar friends (Tony Marcus and T Bop and Junior, Victor Del Rio, Chollo, Bobby Horse, along with Lt Samuelson and Cpt Quirk) but I doubt that this is the book that Mr. Parker would have wanted as his final chapter. As so many have said in the past, it is a sad good bye to all of the characters we loved like family, particularly knowing that Spenser's last two cases were accomplished without benefit of Hawk by his side.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2011
This is a sad book. Like many who have posted reviews, I've read every one of the Spenser novels. Some are better than others, but it is always fun to spend several hours with the Spenser character and the world he lived in. Reading this I kept realizing this was the last new one ever. It's decent Spenser, some good action scenes, some sparkling Spenser wisecracking and repartee - but I thought it had an unfinished quality to it. Especially the stuff with Sixkill which Parker goes to great lengths to set up - but then concludes rather quickly. Maybe he hadn't completely finished the book before he died. If you're a Spenser fan, definitely read this book. If not, go back to the beginning and read them all!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2011
Robert B. Parker has carved written monuments and he gave them names like Spenser and Hawk. He created his Rushmore out of hope for the human race, and he did it with humor and style. My son didn't want to read some "old dude's" books. One day he was bored enough to pick one of mine up. He read every Spenser novel one after another until he had read them all. Every day he read, every free moment. When he had finished the series, he looked up said "what could I read now that would be that much fun? I feel lost." When I was a kid, I couldn't wait to read Mike Royko's column in the paper. I still wonder what Mike would say if he was still around when I read the news out of Chicago. So it will be with Mr. Parker. He has carved an enduring monument that is as solid as the rules his beloved characters lived by. Sixkill was a good book, but Parker/Spenser could make the most mundane things fun or interesting. Ahhh Parker...he had the talent of 10 men because he was pure of heart.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 10, 2011
Note that it's not "the Last Spenser novel." Clearly there's another in the pipeline. Who will finish it? Will it be the way Parker wanted it? Will Hawk be back? ... The author's death, and where this book will fit into the Spenser saga, overshadows this whole story. And that's not fair to Sixkill. So I will try to review this book on its own terms.

And it's simply OK. The primary plot is reminiscent of Fatty Arbuckle. There's Jumbo, a ginormous star -- both in profitability and girth -- with a dead girl in his room. How did she die? Who is responsible? Quirk of the Boston PD isn't 100% sure that Jumbo is guilty and persuades our man Spenser to investigate. He uncovers a lot that's spooky and unsavory. He cracks wise and annoys people. He works out at the gym and plays with Pearl and continues the maddening (for me, that is; highly satisfying for him) relationship with Susan Silverman.

Then there's a subplot that gives the book its name and its rather stale feel. It revolves around Zebulon Sixkill, the Cree college football star Spenser takes under his wing. Though a new character, there's something disturbingly familiar about Z. That's because he's Paul Giaccommin crossed with Hawk. Their "banter" is racially saturated and hopelessly dated (at one point, while discussing race with a Hispanic character, Spenser references a JACK BENNY routine!) and feels as forced as the "sho 'nuff" talk with Hawk.

So it was an OK book. It was fine. But not one of Parker's best. At the very end of the book, when our hero talks about life and illusion and metaphor, and heads off toward the sun and Susan, I was reminded anew by how well Parker could write, how fond I am of Spenser, and how much I will miss these characters.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 26, 2013
I fell in love with Spenser when I was 17.

It was June, and I was trapped in summer school making up a gym credit that I should have taken my freshman year but had instead left so late that it threatened to keep me from graduating. To call summer school monotonous is to insult monotony. To call summer school gym class monotonous is the equivalent of slapping monotony in the face, Three Stooges style, and then giving it a noogie. I spent all my endless hours walking the school track in sweaty repetitive loops, biding my time until I could sneak off to sit in the bleachers with Spenser, whose wisecracking tales made me forget the heat and indignity.

Spenser – he never told me (or anyone) his first name – was everything I looked for in a man. Older. Erudite. A lover of food and the finer things who didn’t hesitate to stand up for what was right or, when it came down to it, get his hands a little dirty. A knight errant with a smart mouth and a heart like the sea.

Too bad for me that, as written, he’s in love with Susan Silverman, and has been ever since Robert B. Parker’s second novel, God Save the Child, was published in 1974. Perhaps if I’d managed to catch Spenser in his freewheeling single-days debut, The Godwulf Manuscript, we could have had something. Alas, it was not to be.

Parker, who died in January 2010 at the age of 77, authored 39 Spenser novels (plus one adventure written for young adults), as well as the popular Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series and a handful of Westerns – almost seventy books, all told. Some of those adventures made the leap from page to screen, and Spenser – who looked a lot like Robert Urich back in the day – had his own series on ABC from 1985-1988. Ed Harris directed Parker’s western Appaloosa in 2008. Tom Selleck still takes turns as Jesse Stone for CBS. And Sunny Randall (though the idea has long since stalled in Hollywood development hell) was originally written at the behest of Helen Hunt so she could have something of Parker’s to star in, too.

The first and most famous of Parker’s creations, Boston P.I. Spenser, the author based loosely on himself. Spenser’s romantic relationship with longtime lover Susan was based less loosely on Parker’s relationship with his own wife, Joan. Theirs was a famously – one is tempted to say infamously – complicated affair. Parker and his wife married in 1956, but separated in 1982. The first year they reunited, they lived in separate towns. The second year, in separate buildings. Finally, they bought a 14 room Victorian home in Cambridge, Mass., and moved back in together – but lived on separate floors. Most of their drama played itself out in the pages of Parker’s novels, which feature - whatever the series- deeply felt but conflicted emotions between characters who love their independence as much, or occasionally more, than each other.

It’s worth noting that almost everything Parker ever wrote, he dedicated to Joan. “Joan has been the central factor in my life since I was a child,” he once said. “You wouldn’t understand me unless you understand me and her.” Similarly, there’s no understanding Spenser unless you understand Spenser and Susan. She’s the emotional touchstone that separates Spenser from his literary forebears, the perennially isolated Sam Spade and Phillip Marlowe. By the time G.P. Putnam posthumously published Sixkill, Parker’s last novel, he and Joan and Spenser and Susan had long come to terms with one another and the necessary intricacies of their relationships.

Sixkill is not perhaps the book Parker would have chosen to end with, could he have chosen. The story – wherein Spenser investigates the rape and murder of a young woman linked with a movie star - is too clearly a set-up for more things to come. Parker spends so much time on the introduction of the titular Zebulon Sixkill, a Cree Indian Hawk-stand-in whom Spenser takes under his wing, that one can almost see a new series spinning off the page. Sadly, at this first (and last) meeting, “Z” doesn’t seem worth the effort, nor does the near non-mystery he finds himself in.

Painted Ladies, the 38th Spenser novel published last October, would perhaps have made a kinder period to the series. It is, frankly, a better book, with broader issues and snappier dialogue, and offers the kind of character self-summation only a thinker’s thug like Spenser could provide: “{S}ometimes I won. Sometimes I slew the dragon and galloped away with the maiden. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes the dragon survived. Sometimes I lost the maiden. But so far the dragon hadn’t slain me… And I was with Susan.”

Yet there’s poetry to the end Parker did give us, something he with his Ph.D. in Literature could hardly fail to appreciate, if we’d just let it stand. Sadly, the publisher and Parker’s estate have come to an agreement that will allow writer Ace Atkins (Infamous, The Ranger) to continue the series, with the first new installment to drop in the spring of 2012. (Michael Brandman, producer and screenwriter of the television movies starring Tom Selleck, takes over writing the Jesse Stone novels. Robert B. Parker’s Killing the Blues comes out September 13th.)

But for me, it ends as Parker wrote it. Having slain the dragons in Sixkill – to the best of his ability – Spenser looks out across a rain-fresh Boston and, observing that “life is mostly metaphor anyway,” gets in his car and drives west. Towards Susan, and the sunset of a series none of us who loved him will ever forget.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2013
I have every Parker novel written and his style, his prose, his thought process is unmistakeable. Five pages into this novel and the serious reader knows immediately that something is off. RBP may have written the outline, a draft of sorts, but it is apparent that this remarkable author did not complete this without help. I adore the work of RBP and waited anxiously for his last works. What I read were scenarios and dialogue that he would never have used. Characters were missing and others were saying things that made no sense if you've followed them from the start of the series. And Hawk has been 'gone' because the relationship between he and Spenser is so unique, so very Parker, that it would be a glaring catastrophe if another author tried to duplicate it.
Sadly, I wish the powers that be had just let the Spenser series end. This review isn't about not liking Robert Parker's work, it's about the doubtlful originality of the last 'two' books that were fed to a grieving readership.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2011
Although I wrote in my review of Parker's last Spencer novel that it was probably the last one, released after his death, it seems that there was at least one in the pipeline, this one, Sixkill. The cover blurb on this one says that it is the last Spenser Parker completed before his death. Whether this means that it will be the last or whether his estate will continue the current trend of either finding a ghost to complete some more novels based on notes or even farming out the characters to some other writer to try and continue the series is not known, at least by me. As much as I like Parker's works I hope they let his characters rest in peace because unlike a lot of novelists whose works depend on plot lines Parker's strong suit are his characters and his plots, while decent, are not the backbone of his books and while ghostwriters might be able to work from notes on a lot of things when it comes to characters developed over decades it's kind of hard for anyone but their originator to breathe the right kind of life in to them.

As I said up above plotting is not Parker's forte, the plots are frameworks to showcase his characters and in Sixkill I feel the plot is below average. Spenser is hired to find the truth about whether a big name movie star, who is an unlovable, grotesque pig, actually raped and killed a young girl. He's been accused of the act but Homicide Captain Quirk has a feeling something isn't right but really can't do anything about it as he faces pressure from upstairs to get the guy as the media and populace have basically tried and convicted him. He contrives to get Spenser on the case to find out the truth. Aside from Susan Silverman, Quirk and Rita Fiore, the leggy lawyer with a bad case of the hots for Spenser, are the only two of the many recurring characters Parker has graced us with over the years that put in actual appearances. Hawk is said to be in Asia, Chollo and Bobby Horse, the LA mobsters, make brief cameos on the phone and Teddy Sapp, the Georgia strongman and Vinnie Morris, the Boston shooter are mentioned in passing as Susan discusses whether Spenser should get someone to watch his back. Oh yea, mob boss Tony Marcus and his bodyguards, Junior and Ty-Bop, also make a brief appearance in a restaurant scene. Henry Cimoli, the owner of the Harbor Health Club who is usually mentioned in passing actually gets a bit of a more fleshed out role also though it isn't anything major. So, is Spenser left to carry the load alone here? No, because while all the others are out of the picture Parker introduces a new character, Zebulon Sixkill, or Z as he is referred to, the title character.

Sixkill is a Cree Indian who is Jumbo Nelson's (the aforementioned pig) bodyguard. He's a tough former football player who thinks he's tough but when Jumbo sets him on Spenser he promptly has his clock cleaned. This prompts Jumbo to fire him and Z to seek out Spenser to teach him how to really fight. This put Spenser in his "help the wounded bird" mode, something Parker has done in a few of his earlier works and the book becomes as much about Sixkill, and his relationship with Spenser, as it does about finding out what happened with Jumbo. With all the character building Parker does on Sixkill one has to believe he is using this book as an introduction to a new recurring character, possibly one that might slide in behind Hawk on the priority list or possibly as a new spinoff as the Sunny Randall series seems to have hit a wall even before Parker's passing. Unfortunately we'll never know. While he does a great job of introducing and developing Sixkill the plot does suffer a bit because of it and the end seems to be kind of rushed and weak. As his characters are his main claim to fame however it still makes for enjoyable reading. Keeping with his tendency to make his characters diverse as possible, gays, blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Parker has put a Native American front and center, Booby Horse was also one but he usually played second fiddle to Chollo when they appeared, and he presents him as a real person, flaws and all as he does with most of his characters. It's a shame Parker will be gone from the scene.

The thing that disappointed me most about this book was the lack of Hawk. Spenser should not have had to ride off in to the sunset without Hawk watching his back and making some snide remark. While I doubt Parker realized that this would be Spenser's swan song it was a cruel trick fate played on faithful readers. Even given its flaws I would recommend Sixkill and for those of you have followed Spenser over the years to savor it as, even if they somehow try to continue his work I doubt anyone will be able to bring Parker's character off the page the way he did.
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13 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 2011
Like many of the people who have been reviewing this book, I have been reading Robert B Parker for many years and felt sorry that he died. However, I believe one should review the book, not the author, and the sad fact is that this book just isn't very good. Over the last few years, when Parker started pumping out more and more books per year, the quality of the books declined, and that is in evidence here as well. There is nothing here we haven't seen before: Spenser's mentoring of the character Z is right out of Early Autumn, his dialogue with Susan Silverman is as trite as always (how many times can these two engage in navel-gazing conversations about why Spenser does what he does? How many times do we need to hear that she has a PhD from Harvard?), the writing and editing is sloppy (at one point, after a climactic confrontation with the bad guys, Spenser asks Z whether he has ever killed anybody before; Z says no, obviously forgetting that just a few dozen pages before, he shot and apparently killed somebody), the formidable professional killer turns out to be not so formidable after all, and the so-called "mystery" ultimately ends on an anti-climactic and totally unsatisfactory note. There is no denying that the character of Spenser is a wonderful one, and Parker deserves great credit for creating him, but somewhere along the line Parker started doing these books by rote. It takes about five or six hours to read this book, and it seemed to me that Parker didn't spend much more time writing it.
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