On her fifth go-round, Robin Light's strengths are all on display. We've come to expect the funny-tough, lackadaisically precise prose style that makes her sound more than a little like a depressed Kinsey Millhone, and by now Barbara Block has Robin's voice down pat. It's also fun to hear it being applied to a world in which depression, both emotional and economic, is the keynote: the sad and fascinating city of Syracuse, New York. Block's descriptions of Syracuse and renderings of its mood are so marvelously accurate that one begins to see Kinsey Millhone as the interloper, applying the stoic voice in her own nouveau riche Californian neighborhood: however derivative Block's style may be, it fits Syracuse better. Robin Light herself is more believable than Millhone as a survivor who is compassionate enough to think the worst of human beings. Instead of being a somewhat obnoxiously resilient loner by choice, she's a widow struggling to support a pet shop and a sideline career as a detective. The weakness of this series is that with an eminently human heroine who tends to make the sort of absurd mistakes her readers would (and have), by Number Five we begin to doubt whether she would still be alive, still sleuthing, and still have the same friends. Block will have to work harder than Sue Grafton to prevent her series from deteriorating into formula given that it would be much more damaging to her own best effects. This is a middling entry in the series--better than the last, but not as good as the first--and is distinguished by featuring a cast of very real and very obnoxious teens. Block's fans still need to wait for her breakthrough book, which we can only hope will bring her the feedback essential to any long-running series. In the meantime, this book is essential reading for addicts.