Eight years after Spenser was shot and left for dead (Small Vices, 1997), it’s Hawk’s turn to seek revenge on his would-be killers.
The Ukrainian mob, branching out from Brooklyn to Beantown, wants to horn in on Luther Gillespie’s racket, so the bookie hires Hawk as his bodyguard. Result: Gillespie dead, most of his family ditto, Hawk shot three times in the back. Naturally, this will not stand; as soon as Hawk’s back in shape several months later, he’s eager to go after the shooters. Identifying five Ukrainian suspects is a snap, but when the DA’s office bobbles the case, Hawk and Spenser are left on their own, except for the sympathy of Susan, Spenser’s favorite shrink; Cecile, Hawk’s favorite thoracic surgeon; and the underhanded but heartfelt support of the Boston Police Department and the FBI. The shooters, it seems, are protected by Boots Podolak, the mayor and unofficial owner of Marshport, whose move into Boston is fully though unhappily supported by Massachusetts East mob kingpin Tony Marcus. Hawk’s problem, then, is to eliminate the button men and provide a trust fund for the surviving Gillespie boy without ruffling too many feathers of the mob, the Ukrainians, or their overlords, heroin-smuggling terrorists from Afghanistan (don’t ask). If this unusual diplomatic brief sounds fearfully complicated and well outside Hawk and Spenser’s usual field of expertise, don’t worry. It’s nothing that can’t be resolved by the condign application of baleful glares, well-chosen handguns, and a concentration of man’s-gotta-do wisdom that’s high even for this celebrated series (Bad Business, 2004, etc.).
Somebody seems to have misplaced a reel between the High Noon build-up and the Fistful of Dollars finale. The testosterone-laced attitudinizing is sharp and often compelling, though no substitute for an honest attempt to surmount difficulties that melt away instead at a touch of Spenser and Hawk’s magic hands.