Like Dick Francis and others, Parker is receiving major media attention while producing his weakest work: there hasn't been a completely satisfying Spenser outing, in fact, since Promised Land. And this new episode follows the recent pattern--lots of macho posturing and "relationship" babble, but little suspense, mystery, or fresh characterization. Spenser's estranged true love, neurotic Susan Silverman, has gotten romantically entangled out in California with possessive Russell Costigan, son of a shady, powerful tycoon; Spenser's bosom-buddy, black enforcer Hawk, has attempted to help Susan, winding up in jail on murder charges. So white-knight Spenser flies to the rescue, breaking Hawk out of jail. They set out to find Susan--committing murder, arson, and other neat crimes (for supposedly noble reasons) along the way. Then the lethal duo acquires an unlikely ally: the inept CIA, which wants Spenser to murder Costigan Sr. (an amoral arms-merchant) for them. And eventually, after infiltrating Costigan's private-army training compound, Spenser and Hawk do pry Susan away from Russell--but they must still kill Costigan Sr. Implausible plotting, incessant wisecracks, some lively action that's more A-Team than Hammett: smug thug Spenser's personal "code of honor" has never seemed to pompous and specious.