OUT OF SIGHT
Leonard's criminal farces tend to get derailed when his hero is a lady (Maximum Bob, 1991, etc.), and it happens again in his 33rd novel, a sweetly meandering fantasy spun out of the cutest meeting on record. Legendary bank robber Jack Foley has worked out an ingenious prison break. He'll blow the whistle on Jose Chirino's crowd tunneling under the perimeter fence, promote a guard's uniform, go through the tunnel himself, and head straight for his old pal Buddy Bragg, waiting with a getaway car. But Buddy's brought along car thief Glenn Michaels, and deputy US marshal Karen Sisco, who knows Glenn by sight, also happens to be on the scene. She pulls a shotgun on Foley, who loses his heart to her after Buddy disarms her and he's stashed in the trunk with her for the getaway. Before they part, he gallantly tells her to "have your clothes cleaned and send me the bill." Karen can't believe the nerve of this guy, but then--after she gets a slot on the task force that has tracked Foley to Detroit, where he and his increasingly violent playmates plan to kidnap moneyed ex-con inside trader Richard Ripley--she starts to fall for him, too. Leonard has a lot of lazy fun setting up a cockeyed array of good guys (like Karen's p.i. father Marshall, who worries that her stakeouts with Florida state cop Ray Nicolet are too much like dates) and bad (such as the homicidal Maurice "Snoopy" Miller and his brother Kenneth, who likes to tussle with females). But for all the hip, loco dialogue he scatters as Karen and Foley improve their relationship while plotting against each other like Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, he never really seems to have his heart in this caper. A master coasting is still a master, but nobody will take this for top-drawer Leonard.