Maybe Spenser's driven all the bad guys out of Boston. Which is too bad because on his home ground, the tough and tender PI and Hawk, his trusty sidekick, don't need a gang of other guys to do their work. And the hired guns they round up to help them clean out a nest of ne'er-do-wells who have the desert town of Potshot, Arizona, terrified aren't nearly as amusing as, say, John Dortmunder's criminal colleagues in Donald Westlake's caper novels.
The thugs who populate the Dell, a scrubby little enclave just outside of town, have the locals in their pocket, which is why the pretty blonde who hires Spenser to find whoever killed her husband points him toward the Preacher, who rules the Dell and its denizens. But Spenser's not as certain as his client that Steve Buckman died at the Preacher's hands. As our hero and his ethnically diverse but politically incorrect henchmen (one gay shooter, one Latino, one black, one Native American--all that's missing is Annie Oakley) investigate, it turns out that Spenser's right, as usual. The action ranges from Las Vegas to L.A., Atlanta to New Mexico, but much of it is a humdrum travelogue as Spenser rounds up his gang from all over the country to take on the Preacher and his musclemen. While Potshot isn't one of Robert B. Parker's best, it's still not bad. The one or two lines devoted to introducing Spenser's backup buddies don't begin to do any of them justice, and there's a lot more description of the artillery the guys pack than usual. But they do fill up the white space, and when the action lags, there's always Susan's dirty talk, shopping jones, and dietary obsessions to divert the reader. There's a midlife crisis somewhere in this evergreen series that's just waiting to erupt. Whether it's Spenser's, Susan's, or Parker's, however, remains to be seen. --Jane Adams