Spenser still coming to rescue after Parker’s death

I was finally feeling like myself again recently, so I selected Robert B. Parker’s “Little White Lies.” Since Parker passed away a few years ago, Ace Atkins has taken over completing his Spenser series.

It is late summer in Boston, and Spenser is contemplating life when his lady love, Dr. Susan Silverman, calls. She is sending one of her clients to Spenser hoping he can help the distraught woman.

Connie Kelly is a well-dressed middle-aged woman who made a common mistake. She fell in love with a slick con man. After he convinced her to invest almost $300,000 in his bogus upscale gun range, he disappeared. Connie insists that she no longer loves the man but wants Spenser to track him down and get her money back.

The man is M. Brooks Welles. Spenser has never heard of him but soon learns Welles is a minor celebrity claiming to be a former Navy Seal, Vietnam vet and CIA agent who works with various freedom fighters around the world. At this point, he is working on a book about his exploits and appearing on TV and radio talk shows.

Spenser agrees to take the case, more as a favor to Susan than Connie. The result of a quick online search makes Welles look like a superhero and triggers Spenser’s BS meter.

Spenser can’t find any record of M. Brooks Welles in the colleges he claims to have attended or any branch of the military. No driver’s license, no home address and no telephone in his name convinces Spenser that Welles has been working more than one kind of con and doing it for years. Apparently, Welles’ many supporters never bothered to verify his credentials.

When he finally corners Welles, Connie insists that she loves him and wants Spenser to drop the case, but he simply can’t do that. Within minutes of the meeting, he and Welles are ambushed. They survive, but Welles disappears. That makes Spenser even more suspicious.

Through information about the gun range scam, Spenser connects the dots to John Gridoni and his massive gun sales business. When Spenser digs deeper into Gridoni and his associates, he’s contacted by the FBI and told to back off because they have an ongoing investigation in place. Naturally, Spenser refuses to quit. Soon his friend Hawke is involved.

Connie and Welles’ trail takes them to Georgia. Connie is dead. The police say it was suicide, but Spenser easily learns that it was murder. Welles has reappeared. This time he has a wife and two daughters and spends his time as a preacher evangelizing with another con artist – Rev. Ridgeway — and raising money to arm an overseas militia group.

When confronted, he insists that Connie killed herself because he wouldn’t leave his wife. When asked about her money, Welles insists that all the investors lost money but if this new deal came through, he would pay it. All Spenser wants is to recover Connie’s money, but Welles sets him up for a vicious beating administered by a thug named Brother Bliss.

Against their better judgment, the FBI agrees to Spenser’s plan for a sting. Sadly, they only capture Ridgeway.

Once back in Boston, Spenser hatches a plan to lure Welles to the city and recover Connie’s money. But he knows that isn’t the end of the ordeal. He and Hawke go to Spenser’s remote Maine cabin and wait. It doesn’t take long for Bliss and three others to show up armed and ready to kill. They walked right into Spenser’s trap.

It is an ugly end to an ugly episode and probably won’t be the last time he’s attacked, but Spenser’s perseverance has paid off and he can finally see Connie’s money used to benefit others.

Few of us will ever need the services of someone like Spenser, but it is heartening to read about a hero who never gives up.

AT A GLANCE

Book: Robert Parker’s Little White Lies (Spenser Book 45)

Author: Ace Atkins

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons

Year published: 2018

Number of pages: 352