July 17, 1995 12:00 PM

by Robert B. Parker

Is Spenser getting sappy? One of detective fiction’s best hard-boiled gumshoes, once quick of trigger and fast of lip, is starting to act like a sensitive, ’90s kind of guy. This time the wife of a Boston detective has disappeared. Spenser’s job: get her back. The hunt leads him into the drug-dusted Hispanic ghettos of a decaying New England mill town where a twist of fate, a fortunate new partnership and a bit of sly planning ensure a satisfying caper. Along the way, though, Spenser spends too much time dining in fancy restaurants and sharing his newly genteel philosophy with his psychotherapist girlfriend at the drop of every linen napkin. He can hardly bring himself to be rude even to the bad guys anymore. Spenser should be commanding mean streets. Here he’s treading thin air. (Putnam, $21.95)

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