Leonard returns to the Florida coastline for his weakest novel since Touch (1987)--a bumpily humorous but unfocused seriofarce about a probation officer and the eccentric judge she gets entangled with. As one of Leonard's very few heroines in 29 novels, spunky Kathy Baker of the Florida Dept. of Corrections blows a whiff of fresh air into the Leonard canon--as does the outspoken, aging hanging-judge Bob Gibbs--but not enough to put the spring into a slack plot that begins when skirt-chasing Gibbs takes a fancy to Kathy as she shows up in his courtroom with probation-violator Dale Crowe Junior. Gibbs throws the book at Dale, then asks former psychology-major Kathy out on a date under the guise of her talking to his wife, a former showgirl who seems to be possessed by the spirit of a 12-year-old 18th-century slave girl. Before Kathy can visit Gibbs, however, a hugh alligator appears on his property and sends his wife scurrying for northern climes. And that's just fine by Gibbs, who turns out to have imported the gator to get rid of his loony wife. But when Gibbs double-deals Dickey Campau, who brought the gator, Campau drives out to the judge's home and shoots up the house. Which is just as well, because the shots scare off Elvin Crowe, Dale's mean and flaky uncle, who's been hired by another of the judge's irate courtroom-victims, a crack-addicted M.D., to kill the judge. Caught up in the investigation into the gator-attack and shooting, Kathy matches up professionally and romantically with cool cop Gary Hammond--until a jarring note of raw violence takes out Gary and sets Kathy up for an anticlimactic confrontation with Elvin and the M.D. Nicely realized characters, the usual smart Leonard dialogue, a few moments of brisk high/low humor--but the meandering plot lacks drive, Gibbs rolls around like a loose wheel, and the whole affair seems more like a pale Carl Hiaasen imitation than true-blue Leonard: It's all a big disappointment after Leonard's crackling last, Get Shorty (1990).