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Review: Ace Atkins' 'Little White Lies' a satisfying page turner

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Published May 3, 2017

If you're a fan of Boston private eye Spenser, Little White Lies will keep you eagerly turning the pages to follow his latest adventures in the mean streets. And boy, will it make you hungry.

This is the 45th book in the series about Spenser created by Robert B. Parker, and the sixth one written by Ace Atkins, who was selected to continue the series after Parker's death in 2010.

Atkins, formerly a reporter for the then-St. Petersburg Times and Tampa Tribune, also writes a series about Mississippi lawman Quinn Colson; the seventh in that series, The Fallen, will be published in July.

Little White Lies opens with a referral from Spenser's longtime love, Susan Silverman, who sends a patient from her therapy practice to him for a different kind of help.

Connie Kelly thought she had found Mr. Right on an online dating site. M. Brooks Welles (oh honey, beware of anyone whose first name is an initial) seems like the whole package: handsome and silver-haired, smart but mysterious, a former CIA agent turned cable news pundit, expounding about terrorism on the small screen and charming as can be in person.

But Welles has disappeared, and so has the $260,000 Connie gave him to invest in a fancy gun range project in rural Massachusetts. She's heartbroken, but even more, she's furious about the money.

By dint of shoe leather and strategically deployed wisecracks, Spenser soon discovers that Welles has skipped out on four months' rent and has giant overdue credit card bills. What's more, pretty much everything in his resume — military service, spy escapades, Harvard degree — seems to be utterly fake.

Connie is floored, given Welles' public persona. "I would never have believed in Brooks if I hadn't recognized him from TV. Didn't they at least check him out? These are international news stations. People believe in them. Trust what they say about politics and international relations."

Spenser's rejoinder: "Walter Cronkite signed off long ago."

The search for Welles soon takes a violent turn. Connie is not the only person angry at him, and some of those angry people are in the gun business — and all too ready to use their products.

Welles' trail leads Spenser out of Boston to Georgia, where he makes interesting discoveries — "Did you know that Jesus Christ was a big proponent of fully automatic weapons?" — and finds perilous ties among Welles, the gun runners and a megachurch.

Spenser's closest comrade, the enigmatic and invincible Hawk, plays a major role in Little White Lies. There's a moment of unusual intimacy when Hawk reveals his real name to Spenser. And there's a moment in a Georgia hotel room, when Hawk falls asleep with a glass in his hand, that reminds us that, despite his suave appearance and sophisticated patter, Hawk makes his living as a hired gun:

"As I reached for it, his hand shot out and snatched me by the wrist. A big .44 Magnum pulled from under a pillow. For a moment, I wasn't sure he recognized me."

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In lighter moments, Atkins continues Parker's tradition of detailing Spenser's love for good food and drink, from Kane's Donuts and Grill 23 restaurant in Boston to chili dogs at the Varsity in Atlanta and hot pecan pie at OK Cafe in Buckhead, with many, many craft beers and glasses of bourbon in between.

I should have known to be prepared. Before you crack open Little White Lies, lay in some doughnuts and pour some Blanton's neat, water back, just like Spenser likes it.

Contact Colette Bancroft at cbancroft@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.

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