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“Robert B. Parker’s Bye Bye Baby: A Spenser Novel” By: Ace Atkins

“Robert B. Parker’s Bye Bye Baby: A Spenser Novel”

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Pages: 304

Price: $28.00 (Hardcover)

 Adventures in the Life of a Highly Literate P.I.

“Bye Bye Baby,” set in Boston, is the fiftieth Spenser novel, and the tenth by Alabama author Ace Atkins, who, all the while, is writing his highly successful Quinn Colson novels.

The Colson novels are set in Mississippi. It’s a wonder Atkins can manage these two geographical, cultural and linguistic locales and keep them separate, but he does it very well and for those reading both series, amusingly.

Spenser, the long-time Boston private eye, has for years had an enviable, nearly ideal relationship with Susan, his beautiful, sophisticated, Jewish, Harvard-educated psychotherapist girlfriend. Spenser and Susan love being together but love living apart too, and it works perfectly for them.

Out to dinner, at Grill 23 in Boston, they debate the proper martini. She drinks vodka martinis. He drinks gin. He thinks the vodka martinis should not be called true martinis. She thinks gin martinis taste like “bathtub hooch.”

Susan is sexy but not frail. At dinner she is having the steak while Spenser is having seared scallops with asparagus.

That scene will not be found in the Sheriff Quinn Colson novels.

In “Bye Bye Baby,” Spenser has been hired to protect Congresswoman Carolina Garcia-Ramirez who is called CGR for short, an allusion, perhaps, to AOC.

The congresswoman, of Dominican descent, is being threatened by a gang of white supremacist thugs calling themselves the Minutemen, more shame on them. They vandalize her headquarters and seem to be trying to kill her. Oddly, these New England bigots resemble the Oak Ridge Boys, proclaiming their masculinity with enormous beards, and their whiteness with a uniform of khaki pants and white polo shirts, reminiscent of the white supremacists at Charlottesville. They end up looking like hairy, demented frat boys.

CGR does not want his protection, doubts his abilities. To assure her, and impress her, he quotes from Henry IV, Part Two. Prince Hal says: “Faith, it does me, Though it discolors the complexion of my greatness to acknowledge it,” which means, not bragging, he can manage the job.

Elsewhere he says “Ah, therein lies the rub,” which regular readers can get.

Spenser, spelled with an S, like the poet, often quotes poetry, sometimes to gangsters, to their consternation, but in this novel Atkins has taken Spenser’s quotes to a new, obscure level. Susan mentions how any kook can find like-minded people on the internet, and Spenser replies, “in their thick breaths, rank of gross diet, shall we be enclouded. And forced to drink their vapor.” This quote from “Antony and Cleopatra” is spoken by Cleopatra announcing her refusal to be paraded as a prisoner in Rome.

Spenser is stretching.

Quotes from Casablanca are more familiar: “Of all the gin joints” etc.

Spenser will need help to protect the congresswoman and naturally enlists his old buddy Hawk, a fearsome creature who operates on both sides of any line. When asked to help, Hawk inquires, “Infliction or protection?” It’s all work to Hawk!

As readers of whodunnits will recognize, tensions can run high between P.I.’s and local police, but everybody dislikes the feds, FBI especially. The feds always seem to have a separate agenda. and don’t cooperate properly.

 Boston PD makes it a point to get to crime scenes first. The feds are late because “they must’ve been having their daily haircut and shoulder rub.” How can you spot a fed every time? “Cheap shoes and expensive haircuts.”


In the course of the action, repeated attempts are made on CRG’s life, each thwarted in whole or part and, finally, Spenser sifts through the various levels of creeps to end the threat—for the moment.

We are in a time of increased domestic terrorism. As one of the feds puts it: “Keeping these assholes down is starting to feel like a game of Whac-A-Mole.”

Don Noble’s newest book is Alabama Noir, a collection of original stories by Winston Groom, Ace Atkins, Carolyn Haines, Brad Watson, and eleven other Alabama authors. 

Don Noble , Ph. D. Chapel Hill, Prof of English, Emeritus, taught American literature at UA for 32 years. He has been the host of the APTV literary interview show "Bookmark" since 1988 and has broadcast a weekly book review for APR since November of 2001, so far about 850 reviews. Noble is the editor of four anthologies of Alabama fiction and the winner of the Alabama state prizes for literary scholarship, service to the humanities and the Governor's Arts Award.