Review: ‘Little White Lies’ by Ace Atkins

LittleWhiteLiesLittle White Lies by Ace Atkins
G.P. Putnam’s Sons (May 2, 2017)

Back in 2014, Ace Atkins co-authored an article with Michael Fechter for Outside magazine about a man named Jamie Smith. According to the article, Smith built a mini-empire based in large part on his wildly colorful background as an ex-CIA agent, Harvard graduate, and expert on weaponry and wartime tactics. Smith appeared on major news networks to talk about couterterrorism, and he ran a school for weekend warriors out in Mississippi. He convinced a Pennsylvania couple to hand him over $12 million dollars he promised to invest for them. He signed a book deal with William Morrow.

Then, as suspicions that his highly-touted background was nothing more than a carefully constructed house of cards began to bear fruit, Jamie Smith disappeared.

Smith provides the blueprint for M. Brooks Welles, the man at the center of Atkins’ latest Spenser novel, Little White Lies. Spenser is hired by Connie Kelly to find Welles, a man she met on an online dating site. Welles stole her heart, along with nearly three hundred thousand dollars of her money.

Welles recent history is easy enough for Spenser to uncover. He’s a recognized expert in weaponry and military tactics, and a favorite guest of national news networks. He’s also a primary investor in a failed attempt to turn some Boston property into a gun range and training center—a failure that has left some angry people in its wake. But as Spenser continues to dig, he finds it harder and harder to validate Welles’ education or experience. When people connected to Welles begin dying, Spenser begins to realize how deep and deadly the deceptions run.

The case unfolds rapidly as Spenser and his trusted friend Hawk follow Welles to Atlanta, where another unexpected facet of his life is uncovered. What started out as a the simple pursuit of a con man soon entangles Spenser and Hawk in a dangerous web of murder, gun running, and old-time religion.

It goes without saying at this point that Atkins has full command of the style Robert B. Parker employed in writing Spenser. Little White Lies maintains the steady rhythm that is the signature of the Spenser novels, letting the story breathe, interrupting the investigation with the occasional (and welcome) interlude—Spenser making dinner for Susan, or sharing drinks and conversation with Hawk. As before, the quiet moments are as important as the action in defining Spenser as a man.

Little White Lies finds Spenser at his best, doing the work he does simply because it’s the right thing to do. In Atkins’ capable and talented hands, Spenser remains an inspiration and a reminder of what we all should strive to be: a principled man in unprincipled times.

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