Learn more about CCRLS
Reading recommendations from Novelist
Online learning resources
Cover image for Robert B. Parker's old black magic : a Spenser novel
Robert B. Parker's old black magic : a Spenser novel
Other title(s):
Old black magic

[New York] : Penguin Random House, [2018]
Physical Description:
7 audio discs (8 hr.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Series title(s):
Number in series:
bk. 46.
General Note:
Compact discs.
When a five-million dollar prize is offered, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the shady world of black market art to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime--an art heist that people are still talking about twenty years later. But he's not the only one who wants to win.
Geographic Term:


Call Number

On Order



Iconic, tough-but-tender Boston PI Spenser delves into the black market art scene to investigate a decades-long unsolved crime of dangerous proportions.

The heist was legendary, still talked about twenty years after the priceless paintings disappeared from one of Boston's premier art museums. Most thought the art was lost forever, buried deep, sold off overseas, or, worse, destroyed as incriminating evidence. But when paint chips from the most valuable piece stolen, Gentlemen in Black by a Spanish master, arrives at the desk of a Boston journalist, the museum finds hope and enlists Spenser's help.

Soon the cold art case thrusts Spenser into the shady world of black market art dealers, aged Mafia bosses, and old vendettas. A five-million-dollar-reward by the museum's top benefactor, an aged, unlikable Boston socialite, sets Spenser and pals Vinnie Morris and Hawk onto a trail of hidden secrets, jailhouse confessions, and decades-old murders.

Set against the high-society art scene and the low-life back alleys of Boston, this is classic Spenser doing what he does best.

Author Notes

Ace Atkins was a correspondent for The St. Petersburg Times and a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune. He received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for a feature series based on his investigation into a forgotten murder of the 1950s. The story became the core of his novel White Shadow. He is the author of approximately 20 books including The Ranger, The Lost Ones, and Lullaby.

In 2011, he was selected by the Robert B. Parker estate to continue the adventures of Boston's private eye, Spenser. His books include Robert B. Parker's Wonderland, Robert B. Parker's Cheap Shot, and Robert B. Parker's Kickback.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The 1990 Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, one of the art world's greatest unsolved mysteries, provides the spark for bestseller Atkins's entertaining seventh Spenser novel (after 2017's Little White Lies). Locke, an old colleague, tells Spenser he's dying and looking to settle his affairs. In particular, he wants the Boston PI's help in recovering El Greco's The Gentleman in Black, one of three valuable paintings stolen from the Winthrop Museum two decades earlier. Locke has pursued the thieves for years without success, but now the Winthrop's director has started to receive letters from someone with convincing details about the theft. A solution to the case could at last be at hand. Spenser soon finds himself in a race against an obnoxious British investigator who specializes in art crimes. As usual, Atkins emulates Parker's style and dry humor flawlessly ("It was Susan's turn to cook, so we had reservations at Harvest"), but this straightforward, plot-driven entry lacks the attention to the developing relationship between Spenser and Susan that marked the previous book. Author tour. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

Twenty years after a storied theft from a Boston institution--no, not the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum--the powers that be want Spenser, another Boston institution, to recover three stolen artworks that are still missing.Spenser, who wouldn't be interested in the Winthrop Museum's problems if Locke, a dying colleague who's been keeping an eye on it for two decades, hadn't entreated him, agrees to grab the reins even though he's not crazy about temperamental Winthrop director Marjorie Ward Phillips, and museum board chairman Topper Townsend's not crazy about him. The real prize among the three is El Greco's The Gentleman in Black, valued at $60 million to $70 million. But it's the promise that by paying $500,000 she can buy back one of the others, an early Picasso drawing, that hooks Large Marj into agreeing to a trade-off that goes predictably awry, leaving Spenser with undeserved egg on his face. Replaced by Townsend's choice, Paul Marston, a British private investigator as objectionable as he is incompetent, Spenser, now free to pursue the standing $5 million reward the museum's offered, works his contacts twice as hard. Certain that the crooks must have been amateurs who had inside help, he soon starts to see connections between the perps and the Boston mob. The trouble is that it's been so long since the job was pulled that the cops who originally worked the case for the Boston PD and the FBI are mostly retired. Even worse, the mob has gone through even more personnel changes, and the guys most likely to know anything about the heist have long been unavailable for questioning.The case gets successively murkier, but Atkins, in his best imitation of Parker's voice to date, never gets lazy. Readers who approach the last chapter anticipating relief at finally seeing the case solved should be warned that a final twist virtually guarantees a sequel.

Booklist Review

A legendary painting known as Gentleman in Black was stolen 20 years ago from a Boston art museum and has never been recovered. Many fear it has been destroyed, but recently the museum has been receiving hints that it may still exist. The original investigator is dying and asks his friend Spenser to take the case. Though art theft is well outside Spenser's wheelhouse, he agrees out of respect for his doomed friend. Soon he realizes why people involved in the search for Gentleman often end up dead. The possible suspects include semiretired mobsters, their not-so-bright-but-still-dangerous kids, and an art dealer associated with the now-deceased fence assumed to have been involved in the theft. Atkins, who has extended the life of Robert B. Parker's legendary PI in six previous novels, all best-sellers, again captures all the qualities Spenser fans love in the series: smart-ass humor, a touch of romance, plenty of violence, and, of course, Spenser's complex sense of honor. Atkins adds his own touch in the form of complex plots with genuine mysteries at their center.--Lukowsky, Wes Copyright 2018 Booklist