The author's new sleuth, successor to Michael Spraggue (Dead Heat, etc.), is red-haired, six-foot Carlotta Carlyle, ex-cabbie, ex-cop, now a P.I. on the Boston scene that Barnes does so well. Hired by tough, elderly Margaret Devens to find missing brother Eugene, Carlotta starts her seemingly clueless search with the G & W cab company, where she'd once worked and where Eugene was one of a dozen aging Irish cabbies. Now something is going on at G & W, kept secret from its disabled, massive dispatcher Gloria and maybe from owner Sam Gianelli, whose family is Mafia and whose sex appeal Carlotta once again finds irresistible. Unraveling the scam eventually brings the F.B.I., the I.R.A., the Boston police and a host of other elements--including Carlotta's watch over Paolina, her designated ""little sister""--together in a crisply planned showdown. Carlotta bristles with vitality and a slightly sardonic view of herself and the world. She's smart but not smart-alecky; the plot is bizarre but never beyond reason. Engaging and engrossing all the way.