Julius Ventura is a big-time Boston thug. He doesn't want to hire Spenser, but he does because his daughter is crying, and what dad--even a thug--can say no to a crying daughter? Shirley is crying because her husband, Anthony Meeker, has disappeared, and she wants him back. Anthony did some work for his father-in-law, and Spenser suspects there was a cash shortfall about the time Anthony disappeared. Soon Spenser discovers that Anthony was skimming from Julius and had an unwelcome partner, namely Marty Anaheim, a leg breaker in another branch of the organization. And just to add some spice to the mix, Anaheim's wife, Bibi, ran off with Meeker. Spenser and erstwhile pal Hawk move to and fro between Boston and Las Vegas, where they find Henry and Bibi, decide to help the pair escape the murderous Anaheim, and then get stopped cold by the murder of Shirley, Meeker's estranged wife. Toss in a power struggle among Boston's criminal elite, and you've got the most densely plotted Spenser novel in years. The unexpectedly complex machinations of the case complement the always stellar dialogue, the palpable sense of potential violence, and the bantering relationship between Spenser and longtime lover Susan Silverman. The Spenser series has had its ups and downs over more than 20 years, but this twenty-fifth entry finds the quick-witted sleuth and company to be in remarkably good health. Wonderfully entertaining reading.
A missing mafia son-in-law leads Spenser and Hawk (Thin Air) across the country and back to some alarmingly intricate, high-level double-dealing.
It's obvious that Shirley Meeker's husband Anthony is a bum, so why does her father, important thug Julius Ventura, want his brainless courier back? And why would Marty Anaheim, a capo for Gino Fish's gang, be so interested in Spenser's current commission that he'd have him tailed? Smelling an in-house ripoff by the courier, Spenser follows a hunch (lot of those this time) and takes off with mean Hawk and beauteous Susan for Las Vegas, where, sure enough, Anthony turns up, playing a progressive system he's positive will net him all the money there is. Spenser knows there's got to be more to the story, and there is: Anthony's sharing a toothbrush with Marty's wife Bibi. For reasons of his own, Spenser agrees to keep Ventura off Anthony and Bibi for a few daysjust long enough for Shirley to follow her husband to Vegas and get herself raped, beaten, and strangled. Then, in short order, Anthony disappears again, and so does Bibi, whom softhearted Spenser puts on a plane to L.A. to vanish without realizing that she wants to disappear from him too. Just when you're thinking that Spenser's coasting on his earlier reputation, the guy actually starts to do some detective work, uncovering secrets back in Boston that link the few characters who weren't already involved with each other, and tying the whole scheming lot into a struggle for control of the Boston mob. Spenser will redeem his missteps through the usual quota of strutting showdowns ("I had four. Usually that was enough, and would have to be again. After all, I had one more bullet than attackers") before the curtain comes down for good on the bad guys' necks.
A '90s update of The Big Sleep with some of its celebrated model's structural problems: deeply satisfying page by page, but more than a little disjointed in retrospect.