Ever-resilient Travis McGee, on the mend from yet another lost love, is asked by Ron Esterland to find out who killed his wealthy, cancer-ridden father Ellis two years ago. Suspects include Ellis' long-estranged actress wife Josephine--who inherited the family fortune when the first heiress, their daughter Romola, died only weeks after Ellis' death. And, as McGee backtracks with the help of Ellis' live-in secretary Anne Renzetti, he digs up some connections to motorcycle gangs--the subject of movies made by Josephine's longtime lover, off-the-wall movie director Peter Kesner. The couple's current film project, however (using the last of the Esterland loot), is about a hot-air balloon meet--and McGee goes on location, to a small Iowa town, using chumship with star Lysa Dean to gain entree and soon exposing an explosive situation involving pornography, drugs, violence, and local teenagers. The ensuing action: the enraged townspeople's attack on the movie crowd; McGee's escape via balloon; and a murder-rampage by a nasty leftover from Kesner's motorcycle movies. Not quite as wham-bamtense as The Green Ripper, but all the necessary MacDonald ingredients are on the premises: fast pace; incredibly sordid doings which impinge on McGee's blue skies; a terrific windup; and a new love, Anne, who's probably good for at least one more book before she, too, like previous McGee ladies, bites the dust.