Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Boston P. I. Spenser Puts Together a Gang to Clean Up a Small Arizona Town

The twenty-eighth Spenser novel finds the intrepid Boston detective on the road again. A beautiful blonde widow named Mary Lou Buckman has hired Spenser to get the person or persons who recently killed her husband.

The Buckmans owned a business in the small, fictional resort community of Potshot, near the Sawtooth Mountains, about fifty miles south of Phoenix, Arizona. The former mining community has become a haven for wealthy Californians seeking to escape the rat race, but trouble has found them, nonetheless. A gang of cretins and thugs, led by a charismatic man known as the Preacher, has taken over the old mining grounds in the hills outside of Potshot. The bad guys are extorting money from the town's business people and are otherwise terrorizing the community. People are leaving town; real estate prices are plummeting, and Potshot is going to hell in a handbasket.

Buckman's husband, Steve, had attempted to stand up against the gang and one of its leaders had publicly threatened him and warned him that he was "a dead man." When Buckman is shot to death, everyone in Potshot simply assumes that the Preacher or one of his henchmen was responsible. But the local police chief is useless. He's intimidated by the gang and is cowed into taking no action to investigate the murder or to bring the killers to justice. Thus the widow has no place to turn other than Spenser.

Spenser travels out to Potshot to get the lay of the land and quickly concludes that this job is too big for one man, even if the one man is Spenser himself and even if he has his faithful sidekick, Hawk, to assist him. So Spenser recruits his own gang, comprised of killers and other tough guys that readers will readily recognize from earlier Spenser novels. The gang, seven in all, heads out to Potshot, determined to clean up the town and run out the bad guys. Once they get there, however, the situation suddenly becomes a lot more complicated and even more dangerous than Spenser had imagined.

This is an entertaining novel which owes a great deal to "The Magnificent Seven." It's an atypical Spenser novel in that all of the action takes place far from his home turf, and the book is really as much of a western as it is a typical detective novel. But Spenser is the same, wise-cracking tough guy that readers of the series have come to expect and even though the whole scenario is beyond belief, it's still a quick fun read.

As always, at least in my opinion, the principal downside of the book is Spenser's constant mooning over the impossibly irritating Susan Silverman. Even though the action takes place far from Boston, there's still way too much interaction between the two, and the dialog between them is sappy, silly, and annoying in the extreme. As always in these novels, if you skim all the scenes with Susan, you are bound to enjoy the book all that much more.

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