It opens with more excitement than Parker's put in a Spenser book in years, as Spenser and his ladylove Susan Silverman attend a ritzy wedding on an exclusive island. Spenser has been hired as a sort of bodyguard, and it's good that he is, because the wedding is interrupted by an elaborate kidnapping. The chief kidnapper is Spenser's nemesis Rugar, the Gray Man who once shot Spenser and nearly killed him.
Spenser has to use both his wits and his fists in order to make sure he's not dispatched by the Gray Man's thugs and also to get Susan out of harm's way. The sequence packs as much action as some of Parker's best work, recalling similar sequences from the series high points from the mid-70s through mid-80s. The "rough weather" of the title refers to the storm that keeps the kidnappers stranded on the island overnight, forcing Spenser to take on the kidnappers armed with little more than his bare hands. But then the motif, like the story, tension, action and most of the energy are abandoned as soon as the kidnappers leave the island and Spenser goes about trying to find the kidnapped bride and bring Rugar, the murderer of the groom, to justice.
Frankly, the rest of the book may be the laziest work Parker's ever turned out. It's little more than a series of one-on-ones with different people who might or might not be involved in the crime, divvied up by Spenser's encounters with some of his usual circle of legal and less-than-legal acquaintances. Any slight chance it has of hanging together as a narrative that leads somewhere is destroyed by the ending, a twist of events that's thin enough to make tissue paper look like Kevlar. It's nowhere near as bad as the absolutely awful finish of Hundred Dollar Baby, but coming on the heels of such a promising opening, it can seem almost worse.
Parker's published a couple of youth novels and a handful of westerns over the last few years and the move to new fields seems to have given him some new energy. It could be that the new arenas bring him some more creativity while he's more or less going through the motions with Spenser and his other two law-enforcement characters, Paradise, MA, police chief Jesse Stone and lady PI Sunny Randall. Whatever the reason, Rough Weather is about a quarter of a good book stuck inside three quarters of a mediocre one, pushed past its sell-by date with a stinker of an ending. We can all hope for some better sailing next time...