Seems like we've been here before. The last Spenser novel. But no, this time a note on the inner flap of the dust jacket tells us in no uncertain terms that Sixkill was the last Spenser novel completed by Robert B. Parker before his death. So this is it. I already said my goodbyes when I was mistakenly informed that 2010's The Professional was the last Spenser book, so I won't go all maudlin again.
In Sixkill, Spenser is asked by the Boston cops to look into a murder charge against obnoxious movie star Jumbo Nelson. You know you're a good Private Eye when the cops ask you for help. Really it's just Spenser's cop buddy Quirk who doesn't like the way the case is shaping up but has to step lightly because of the interests of the media and local political figures. Spenser, being private, can blunder around all he likes.
It doesn't take long for the ever charming Spenser to royally piss-off Jumbo who sics his Native American bodyguard Zebulon Sixkill on our hero. Sixkill is large, strong, and tough. However Spenser is all of the above and a former professional boxer. Sixkill finds himself outmatched for the first time in his life. The next day Spenser finds Sixkill outside his office. He wants Spenser to teach him how to fight.
As the book progresses we learn that Sixkill's life has been pretty seriously messed up since he was a child and perhaps he needs more than just some lessons in boxing to pull himself together. Like Paul Giacomin in Early Autumn, Sixkill never had anyone to teach him how to be a decent human being. In flashbacks we see the events that led to Sixkill's emotional issues.
Spenser wants Sixkill's help in solving the Jumbo Nelson case, of course, but he also wants to help Sixkill if he can. Spenser has a thing for lost causes.
The book kicks into high gear in the second half, with as many car chases, fistfights and gun battles as a Spenser book has contained in a long time. Sixkill acts as sort of a junior version of Hawk (who is sadly absent from this last hurrah) backing Spenser's play even as he learns from the older man. This is a far far better book to go out on than the Professional, so I'm glad the initial reports about the last Spenser were wrong.
I promised I wouldn't get maudlin, but I have to admit that as I read the last few pages of the book I couldn't help but think, well this is it. No more Spenser. No more Hawk. No more of the snappy dialog and wise-ass quips. I've been reading Parker since high school and that has been a while. I'll miss his books a lot. I'm reminded of a line from an old Jimmy Buffet song, Incommunicado.
"So when I finished that last line, I put the book by itself on the shelf with my heart in it."
Good night, Bob. It's been a good run.