Once more, friendship makes a move on marine biologist “Doc” Ford (North of Havana, 1997, etc.), converting the man of science into a man of action. But he likes that. As all followers of this series know, Ford is a closet adrenaline-junkie. This time out, it’s winsome Amanda Calloway who can’t be refused. She’s Bobby Richardson’s daughter, after all, that same stand-up Bobby who was Ford’s close ally back during their shared Cambodian caper, when, on behalf of their country, the two men did virtuous if shadowy things together. That was 20 years ago, and now here’s young Amanda brandishing a letter from the grave, as it were, in which Bobby clearly states that in time of need, “Ford’s the one to trust.” Amanda’s need is dire: her beautiful, gullible mom has disappeared. Not only that, but when last seen she was under the spell of a particularly loathsome Svengali named Jackie Merlot. Amanda wants her mom rescued, and like the latter-day knight-errant that he is, Ford unhesitatingly accepts the mission—again aided and abetted in his quest by some of the quirky friends who—ve aided and abetted in the past. Soon enough he’s in Cartagena, Colombia, and from there it’s a short haul to Panamanian Gamboa, where he catches up with his fat but fearsome quarry. So it’s Gamboa that becomes the scene of the denouement—a bloody, bittersweet denouement—that will leave Ford with one less quirky friend. So many misplaced meanderings and wearisome digressions—on the wonders of baseball, the age of fish, the yeas and nays of cannabis, plus much more—that what results is one a competent storyteller’s unfortunate lapse into literary self-indulgence.