cover image Kirby's Lastccircus

Kirby's Lastccircus

Ross H. Spencer. Dutton Books, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-55611-031-3

Admired for Echoes of Zero and other mysteries, Spencer capitalizes on the outre in his ninth novel, with caricatures too broad even for farce. Playing the lead is Chicago private detective Birch Kirby, whose remarkable fumbling attracts intelligence ""experts.'' They believe Kirby's stupidity is a cover for genius at espionage and persuade him to help the CIA. In a village called Grizzly Gulch, the detective is at the mercy of a septuagenarian sex maniac, owner of the No Sox baseball team, and other women who lust after him while he's trying to ferret out KGB agents. Every mistake of Kirby's is hailed as a triumph, and his greatest blunder clinches the hero's reputation. Working for Admiral Doldrum's Circus, Kirby is told to put a ``speck'' of power into a cannon but loads it with a ``peck'' that blows the human cannonball and the Soviet network into the stratosphere. The sexual antics, raw language and ridiculous players will appeal to readers who enjoy burlesque laid on with a trowel. (May 21)