By Josh Rubins
Updated July 27, 1990 at 04:00 AM EDT

Thanks, no doubt, to his experience with TV’s Spenser: For Hire series, Robert B. Parker gets the show-biz ambience just right in this new episode for mysterydom’s most self-satisfied shamus. Spenser is hired to play bodyguard to boozy TV star Jill Joyce, who’s filming her series on location in Boston and receiving, so she claims, assorted death threats. After watching some of the shoot, however, Spenser tells the line producer, ”I think you’re hiring me for the wrong job. I think you should hire me to go beat up the writers.”

The good news, then, is that the wisecracks are better here than they’ve been in the last half-dozen or so Spensers. Parker has been nursing some juicy grudges, it seems; TV-land is full of sitting-duck targets, and Spenser happily assigns himself to ”dork patrol.” Otherwise, however, Stardust is no more satisfying than other Parker novels of the past decade. Spenser goes looking for a villain among the men in Jill Joyce’s past and comes up with a psycho-soap-opera cliché. B-

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