Definitely a book in the "Wish I Liked It Better" category. I go in knowing that this is yet another cold-eyed scheme to shake loose a bunch of money from people (like me) who were devoted fans of Robert B. Parker and his indefatigable private eye, Spenser. That's a given, and has been a given for a number of years.
But maybe things are a little too formulaic here? A paint-by-numbers picture rather than an actual work of art aping a master? Or maybe I was just spoiled by the previous book I read by Harry Dolan, which I thought was great.
Mattie Sullivan first appeared as a 14-year-old Southie brat in Lullaby, Atkins' first Spenser book, demanding that Spenser find the guy who killed her mom. She's gotten a couple of mentions in subsequent novels, but now she's back in a major way. She's an aspiring investigator, but still with a big, brash, R-rated mouth. She's bringing Spenser a seemingly not-so-big case: a young girl has been enticed to an exclusive Boston club, where she's expected to, erm, "massage" a rich client. Things proceed pervertedly, and the girl escapes, but neglects to retrieve her My Little Pony backpack.
(No, I made that "My Little Pony" thing up. But it could be true.)
The baddies here turn out to be fictionalized versions of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell. They're in the biz of procuring young talent for themselves and for their "friends". This has somehow made them rich, and seemingly immune from legal remedies, dispensing bribes and threats with abandon.
That's not likely to deter Spenser from bringing them down. And he gets major help from his buddy Hawk. But an unpleasant surprise crops up: a bad guy from (small spoiler for true fans) Small Vices reappears in faux-Epstein's employ. That shifts the odds a bit, and sets things up for a slam-bang finish.
Getting to that slam-bang finish is kind of a slog, though. Atkins really overdoes Spenser's habit of dropping lines from old movies, songs, and associated literary works. Is too much of a good thing wonderful? (See what I did there?) Not always.