No Exit Press, £6.99stg

Potshot, Arizona is not a good place to sell real estate. Once a haven for the LA rich list, who came to the hills to get away from it all, now house prices are plummeting and residents can't sell fast enough. It all comes down to a gang of thugs, led by a character known as The Preacher, who live in the hills and exhort "protection" money from local business people. But, the town's growth is also hampered by a poor water supply and the lack of an alternative source.

Spencer, a fast-talking, wise-cracking Boston private eye enters the frame when he is summoned to investigate the apparently witness-less murder of local businessman Steve Buckman. Mary Lou Buckman claims that local riff-raff The Dell are responsible for her husband's death, but nobody is prepared to give a statement on the matter. What seems at first to be a straightforward murder inquiry turns out to be, with a little more investigation, quite complicated.

Surrounded by his own gang of hoodlums Spencer finds out that the Buckmans shared an open marriage. Steve, a former college football coach was not well liked in his home town, and two of his wife's former lovers - the police chief and a film producer - are also now resident in Potshot. Then the producer goes missing and suspicion is once again cast on Mary Lou. Is she the innocent victim or has she been playing a more sinister role? Spencer's new challenge is to find out if his hiring by the widow was simply a smoke screen.

While 'Potshot' sets out to and succeeds in keeping the reader guessing, the latest installment in the Spencer series is marred by the annoying drawling narration. In a movie version of the book Spencer would be a 1940's model detective - a trench-coat-and-hat-wearing, cigar-smoking schmoozer lurking in the shadows. But there are no shadows in 'Potshot' - it's well and truly set in the brightly illuminated 21st century.

Joanne Ahern