In his fourth outing, Seattle PI Leo Waterman (The Bum's Rush, 1997) is hired to save Bunky, a $360,000 prize Angus steer facing death and barbecue by a desperate steak house owner. Jack Del Fuego hopes to generate publicity for his bankrupt eateries by serving Bunky at his Seattle grand opening. Sir Geoffrey Miles, an overfed authority on food, hires Leo to head off Del Fuego's plan, which threatens to spoil an international gourmet society meeting in Seattle. When Mason Reese (no, not that Mason Reese), a tawdry food critic whose approval Del Fuego needs, is found murdered, the cops think Leo did it, so he must catch the real killer to clear himself. Atop his suspect list are a rival steak restaurateur, Del Fuego's avaricious ex-wife and suites full of greedy hangers-on. For assistance, Leo once again recruits ""The Boys,"" the cadre of aging drunks who stand--or slouch--at the ready to help him with his offbeat cases. Ford pushes credibility by deploying The Boys to snoop around Seattle's finest hotel, but, placed next to the snooty, vengeful rich on the premises, Leo's boozy geezers seem downright genteel. A thoroughly wacky climax in the center of the city involving helicopters, a bull on a pallet, a mammoth barbecue pit and thermodynamics seems just right for Ford's latest, a hugely entertaining, over-the-top caper. Author tour. (Mar.) FYI: In simultaneous publication, Avon will issue the paperback edition of Bum's Rush. Ford's previous Leo Waterman novels were published in hardcover by Walker.