Spenser is without a doubt as tough as they come. However, he also can be as sappy as they come, with emotional vulnerabilities that can get him killed. The book opens with Spenser and Susan Silverman attending commencement at Harvard, where she is awarded a Ph. D in clinical psychology. Shortly after this event, Susan informs him that she is moving to Los Angeles in an attempt to be alone for awhile. Spenser is devastated, and Paul Giacomin moves in with him in an attempt to help him through the crisis. Hawk and Spenser's other friends do what they can, but he has lost much of his will to live.
He is asked to investigate the disappearance of a woman, which leads him to an unusual religious cult. Nothing is as it seems and Spenser makes mistakes that nearly get him killed. This book describes him as a powerful, ruthless and yet very vulnerable person. Parker takes the vulnerability to the edge of believability, but wisely pulls back from that point. Despite his anguish and lack of interest in living, Spenser is still a formidable fighting machine, wisecracking with friends and foes alike.
Spenser beds a woman who works near him, and afterward he sleeps for the first time since Susan left. However, that relationship ends when Spenser kills four of the five killers sent to eliminate him. Unlike Susan, this woman cannot accept the fact that Spenser is forced to kill people in his line of work.
This is a Spenser book that many will dislike and others will consider their favorite. The romantic vulnerability of Spenser has always been there, but in this book it is greatly expanded. If you like romance, then you will enjoy it. However, if your tastes are more for the action, then this may be one of your least favorite novels in the series.