Spenser is hired by a prominent local judge in a blackmail case. When the simple exchange turns complicated things get intriguing. Spenser rescues the judge's daughter from a bad situation, and Susan takes her in. Hawk is hired to go up against Spenser in a showdown. Judge Kingsley, his daughter, Hawk and Spenser all have their little secrets to hide in the end.
Susan and Hawk are among the hostages taken by three men during a robbery gone bad at a Post Office. One of the hot headed robbers shoots several people, including critically injuring Hawk. Spenser and Postal Inspector Higgins attempt to help defuse the situation by tracking down the girlfriend of one of the robbers, while Susan and Hawk try to talk the more sensible offenders into surrendering. Sgt Belson struggles to meet the demands of the robbers. In the end, it comes down to Belson balancing the deadline demands of the robbers and the antsy SWAT commander with ...
Spenser's old friend and mentor, Arthur, is mugged on the street, losing a large sum of cash. In trying to help his hero, Spenser finds his good intentioned friend not being wholly truthful. The money trail leads to neighborhood renewal, organized crime, political intrigue, possible corruption in the police department, and the murder of the mugging suspects. Meanwhile, Susan counsels a young boy on the loss of his family.
When the niece of Sgt Belson dies from a cocaine overdose, he hires Spenser to look into the drug dealers. As Spenser and Hawk work their way up the supply chain, Belson deals with his emotional suffering while trying to stay on the right side of the line with the Police Department. Eventually, they meet some shady businessmen, and make a deal with federal agents whilst Belson must make a choice of moral imperative.
Sammy Backlin returns to Boston and requests Spenser to protect him. After a shootout where Spenser gets shot, a package is delivered to his apartment which leads to an old kidnapping case from when he was a rookie cop. Agent Efrem Connors also returns, looking for Backlin. Eventually, they are all drawn into another kidnapping case.
Spenser is asked for help by old boxing friend Joey. But when they walk into the warehouse, someone takes shots at them, forcing Spenser to kill the shooter. As it becomes apparent that Joey has deep gambling debts, Spenser takes him to a hotel to hide out, forcing Joey to realize just how dire his situation is. After Joey takes off, Spenser tries sorting out what Joey was into and how to help him. This leads to Spenser contemplating how people change over time.
Spenser is hired by a theatre producer to help prove her innocence in a murder charge when even her lawyer believes her to be guilty. Meanwhile, the man Hawk is hired to protect is murdered, in what may be related cases.
When an old lawyer friend dies in an traffic crash, Spenser looks into it. A cohort of the lawyer's calls Spenser down to the office to look at some files, but when he arrives the man is dead and two people are ransacking the office files. Later, Susan is kidnapped, an attempt is made on Spenser and Susan's lives, and Hawk is blinded.
When the daughter of a Navy captain is murdered, suspicion falls on the (black) lieutenant who had been having an affair with her. McAllister, an honorable attorney and an old friend of Hawk's comes to defend him.
Susan enlists Spenser's help in determining the past of a young amnesiac woman who had been sexually abused as a child. The inquiry brings Spenser back to the case of a young girl who was kidnapped from her wealthy family, the case that he resigned from the police force over. When someone puts out a contract on Spenser, and the shady acquaintance she's been living with is killed, he must determine if it has anything to do with the true identity of the young woman.