A damsel in distress enlists Boston’s most storied private eye in her cause and then has second and third thoughts.
M. Brooks Welles, if that's his real name, seemed so wonderful. He was a good bit older than Jumpstart administrator Connie Kelly, but that was no problem: Dr. Susan Silverman tells Spenser that Connie’s always been attracted to older men, and Connie confesses it was a rush to be seen with an anti-terrorist pundit who was constantly invited onto talk shows. Now that Welles has stolen her heart and $300,000, though, she wants him to pay. It doesn’t take long for Spenser to track down Johnny Gredoni, the gun shop owner who was Welles’ partner in a land deal that went south, taking Connie’s money with it, or much longer to find out that virtually everything Welles told Connie, from his background at Harvard to the CIA, is a bill of goods. But the ironclad contract Welles had Connie sign would make it nearly impossible for her to sue him even if Spenser could find him. Then, incredibly, Spenser does find him, and it does no good. Welles simply smirks his way back into Connie’s good graces, and she tearfully tells Spenser that his services are no longer required. Spenser goes back to the apartment in the Charlestown Navy Yard he’s called home ever since his old place was torched (Robert B. Parker’s Slow Burn, 2016, etc.), cashes Connie’s check, and tells himself the case is over. Wrong. Act 2 will send Spenser and Hawk to Welles’ old stamping ground, the Greater Faith Ministries of Georgia, for a tussle with gun-running pastors that floats so wildly free of Spenser’s initial investigation that it might have been written by yet another Robert B. Parker wannabe.
Readers taken in by Atkins’ sureness of touch in the first half of this schizoid yarn richly deserve to get flimflammed by the bait-and-switch that follows.