The mysterious death of a star-struck young woman who struck a star’s fancy provides the basis for Spenser’s valedictory outing.
One minute Dawn Lopata was alive in her hotel-room bed, the next she was dead, somehow strangled while she was in the bathroom. At least that’s the story Jumbo Nelson tells. Since it’s not much of a story, his movie studio hires Rita Fiore’s Boston law firm to dig deeper, and Rita hires Spenser to do the real digging. The job’s not easy, because among all of Spenser’s checkered clientele (Painted Ladies, 2010, etc.), Jumbo is the most repellent, a truculent brat who cares about nothing but his own oversized appetites. It’s no surprise when he fires Spenser and Rita, leaving Spenser to work the case pro bono and giving him the potential to irritate some very influential people. The only bright spot is Jumbo’s Cree bodyguard, Zebulon Sixkill. On their first encounter, Spenser and Z sniff around each other; on their second, Spenser thrashes Z. But Spenser breaks the mold when Z turns up asleep outside Spenser’s office door, and Spenser takes him in and starts the one-time college-football star, whose back story is presented through a series of awkward flashbacks, on the road to redemption. As luck would have it, the road winds through some familiar areas: serving as a sparring partner, passing on crucial information about Dawn Lopata’s last moments, backing up Spenser’s play against the local thugs hired to beat him up, and cutting back on the sauce so that he’ll be sharp enough to help deal with the inevitable tough guys from Hollywood who regard Jumbo as a cash cow whose value has to be maintained no matter what.
By no means as substantial or resourceful as Parker’s best, but a treasurable demonstration of the bromide that “life is mostly metaphor”—at least to the peerless private eye and his fans.