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Robert B. Parker’s iconic Boston-based private detective, Spenser, returns on May 1 in a new novel, “Lullaby,” (G.P. Putnam - $26.95) written by Ace Atkins as he continues the 40+ book series that many of us worried had ended when Parker passed away unexpectedly in January 2010.

The good news is that Atkins - who has written a number of mystery novels, including “The Ranger,” which I loved - is a real writer who very much up to the task. He has created a Spenser book that goes a long way toward capturing Parker’s musical phrasing as well as his sardonic yet hopeful world view.

“Lullaby”captures the flavor of Parker’s novels without being too imitative, and allows characters that have become old friends to many of us to continue.  To me, "Lullaby" seemed like Parker’s novels of perhaps 20 years ago…not quite as minimalist as they later became.  (This is not a bad thing.) One of the early reviews I read suggested that Atkins kept the series going without breaking new ground (not entirely true, since we found stuff out about Hawk never before revealed), but I think he did what he had to do with his first effort, and it'll be interesting to see how he moves forward from here. And it was fun to catch the subtle nods to the fact that the books are in new hands now.

“Lullaby” starts as most great Spenser novels have begun. He’s in his office, drinking coffee, munching on a doughnut, musing about the weather or the Red Sox or the music playing on the stereo, when a client walks in. In this case, the client is a young girl who wants Spenser to investigate the years-ago murder of her mother; she’s convinced that while someone has been convicted or the crime and imprisoned, the real killer remains at large. From there, we are off on an adventure that revisits old characters from earlier novels, ventures into Boston neighborhoods both mean and refined, and offers the customary crackling dialogue and repartee. (I loved the Boston flavor that Atkins - a child of the south - managed to give the book. I didn’t know, for example, that Sam Adams Brick Red is a beer that one can only get on tap in certain Boston restaurants along the Patriot Trail. I have some work to do next time I go to Boston.)

Atkins isn’t one hundred percent of the way there yet ... but “Lullaby” is a legitimate Spenser novel and a new beginning for the series. Go down to your local bookstore on May 1 and buy it, or order it now from

I’m already looking forward to the next one. The world, as Spenser might say, is filled with possibility.

I have a couple of wonderful white wines to recommend to you this week...

• theFrancis Coppola Director’s 2009 Sonoma County Chardonnay , which is rich and full and my idea of a great chardonnay.

• the 2010 Abraxas from Robert Sinskey Vineyards ... a blend of pinot gris, pinot blanc, gewürztraminer, riesling that is really something special.

That’s it for this week. have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.

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