Wonderland

[Amazon Link]

A new Spenser novel by Robert B. Parker was the source of much joyous celebration at Pun Salad Manor. But Mr. Parker died, and his estate and publisher decided to continue the series with author Ace Atkins. The first of these efforts, Lullaby, was good enough to get me to invest in a Kindle version of the second one, Wonderland. And guess what? Wonderland is even better. My take was that Lullaby was 90% faithful to the Spenser universe; Wonderland is up around 98-99%. Ace has hooked me for the duration.

Henry Cimoli has been a minor character in the novels for decades: he's the owner of the gym where Spenser originally trained as a boxer, and where he and Hawk continue their fitness regimens. But now, Henry has a problem: a shadowy organization wants to buy the condominium complex where he lives. And they've been sending thuggish types out to mildly threaten the holdouts.

This is right up Spenser's alley: he's been out-toughing hired thugs forever. He and new apprentice Zebulon Sixkill make short work of that, and Spenser tries to work out who's pulling the strings. He nails that down pretty quickly too, and things seem to be working toward a speedy conclusion, … Waitaminnit, we're only like 35% done with the book? What can happen next?

Well, a body happens. Actually, a head, minus the rest of the body. I was surprised at the victim's identity. I did not see that coming.

Here's an example of the kind of thing I liked. Spenser is discussing a meeting with an ex-Harvard prof Rose with Mass State cop Healy:

"What did Rose say?" Healy said.

"Not much," I said. "The man has no sense of humor."

"The problem is that you think you're funny, Spenser," Healy said. "A guy who taught at Harvard would find you juvenile."

I shrugged.

People have been telling Spenser that he's not as funny as he thinks for, well, decades. I've been accused of the same. It's nice to see it in print again.


Last Modified 2013-06-19 9:44 AM EDT

Iron Man 3

[5.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

If you've been reading many of these movie blurbs, you've probably noticed that a good 50% of my movie-preference DNA is strictly Teenage Boy. So I went into Iron Man 3 enthusiastically and uncritically, and I was not disappointed.

Tony Stark is still feeling the aftereffects of saving the world in The Avengers; apparently the shawarma didn't get things back to normal for him. So he's neglecting his (now) live-in girlfriend, Pepper, and is spending an inordinate amount of tinkering-time in the basement of his flying-saucer home on the Malibu cliffs. He gets the occasional anxiety attack.

Despite all his tinkering, he's dreadfully unprepared to deal with the threat of The Mandarin, an international terrorist bent on blowing up Americans. There are a number of strangely glowing people wandering around doing nefarious things. Worse, Tony's inconsiderate conduct from a dozen years previous is about to bite him in the ass. He spends most of the movie a couple steps behind his enemies.

What sets the Iron Man series apart from its genre is overall braininess. As a geek, I appreciate that. There is, of course, the normal slam-bang boom-boom action, but Tony's scientific/engineering expertise gets him out of any number of situations where the armor isn't doing the trick. (He's out of his suit for most of this movie.) Tony also shows some pretty mean detective skills here, as he struggles to figure out what's going on.

Robert Downey Jr. is (as before) just about perfect as Tony Stark, hitting all the right notes of arrogance, hubris, and cynical humor covering some inner vulnerabilities. Gwyneth Paltrow, as Pepper, has more to do here than in the previous movies, and she handles her expanded role very well. Mrs. Salad usually bypasses superhero flicks, but she accompanied me to this one, enjoyed it, and I think Gwyneth (plus a cute, smart kid in a key role) contributed.