Blue Screen Mass Market Paperback – Jun 5 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Parker's latest mystery brings two of his series characters, Boston PI Sunny Randall and Paradise, Mass., chief of police Jesse Stone together for the first time. Zillionaire Buddy Bollen hires Randall as bodyguard to his live-in girlfriend, the minimally talented but beautiful and athletic Erin Flint, who has starred in several movies Bollen's produced. As the owner of a baseball team, he wants Flint to be the first female major league player. Flint's fear of physical reprisal against her as she attempts to break the baseball gender barrier leads to the hiring of Randall. When Flint's assistant is found dead, Stone joins Randall, professionally and romantically, to solve the murder. Parker, as usual, delivers a fine novel, whose serviceable plot exists primarily to showcase his well-drawn characters. Although she may upon occasion lose track of whose voice is whose, Burton does an admirable job of delivering Parker's dialogue, which is as stylistically unique as a David Mamet play. Her first-person narration from Randall's point of view and expository passages are nicely performed, bringing just the right amount of world-weariness to her characterization.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Erin Flint is on all the magazine covers, and her last movie--lotta body, acting not so much--was boffo box office. Her lover-manager, Buddy Bollen, who also owns a major-league baseball team, wants Flint to play for his team--a cameo, but timed to coincide with the release of her next movie. But Erin fears there may be an attempt on her life, so Boston investigator Sunny Randall is hired to be her bodyguard. While working on her batting skills in the resort town of Paradise, one of Erin's entourage is murdered. Sunny, with the blessing of Paradise police chief Jesse Stone--another Parker series regular--sets off to find the killer. Parker has never been big on plots. He's all about character, characters, and snappy dialogue, and all are present here in spades. What makes this special is the dalliance between Stone and Randall. Both are smart, clever, witty, brave, burdened with the weight of past loves, and, well, downright horny. This isn't Parker's best work, but it may be his most lighthearted. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Where the previous Sunny books relied too heavily on cute references to every single character found in Spenser novels, we almost have a clean slate here with Blue Screen. We still run into Susan Silverman and Healy every once in a while, but it's toned down from previous rounds. Sunny is brought in by a millionaire who wants to protect his curvy actress, Erin Flint, from harm. Erin is, of course, in traditional Parker fashion, an uppity, obnoxious feminist who thinks all men are slime. We've seen this character a few times before.
Sunny takes on the job, in short order a friend named Misty is slain, and the chase is on. It turns out of course that EVERYONE is lying, and about really idiotic things, too. Did Erin really think her lies would not be found out? There's a difference between not intelligent and completely senseless. There are a number of things happening during this story which are deliberately for plot reasons - and the plot is pretty transparent.
But when you come down to it, this particular story's not about the mystery, or the plot. It's about the romance. Pretty much all focus is on Sunny and Jesse. How is Jesse dealing with his ex-wife who has cheated on him yet again? How is Sunny dealing with her ex-husband who has moved on in life? How can they carefully hook up with each other, with the emotional wounds still so fresh? Should Sunny shave her legs? Should Jesse risk taking a drink again? It's like watching a courtship dance between porcupines - both are lonely, both are really concerned about being hurt again and about hurting the other. Eventually, of course, they find a way to make it work.
I also love Parker's writing style in general. It's what keeps me coming back for more each time. The way he words things, the dialogues he creates, it is poetry in motion. I still laugh out loud when I read Parker - and there are phrases I remember long after I finish the last page.
Still, I have to wonder just where things are going to go now. I really enjoy the Jesse Stone series, and am also liking the made-for-TV versions that have Tom Selleck playing Jesse. I am hoping they go through and make each book into one, and even perhaps start a whole series based on it. Parker was writing all three series - Spenser, Stone and Sunny - side by side. Does this mean the next book will be a Stone book, continuing the story? Up until now, readers could read just "one line" - say just the Stone line - and not feel TOO lost (despite the continual references to Spenser characters). With the incestuous intertwining that has just happened, readers need to have read BOTH lines (the Jesse and the Sunny lines) to really understand the background of both characters and to get all the references in this book. I suppose it's a way for Parker to ensure that people read every single book he writes, if he's going to have every book refer to every other book he's written.
I suppose since I *do* read every book that Parker writes, I don't mind. But I do feel sorry for people who pick this one up having only read the Sunny series - they'll be quite lost about what Stone is all about. I also would look forward to a refocus on the mystery and plot. Yes, I love the human interplay - but where previous Sunny and Stone books were quite nice in their human nature insights, this one was more laid out as a romance novel. The insight was along the lines of "My ex is married, maybe I really should move on with my life."
As a final note, every time I see the title "Blue Screen" I immediately think "Blue Screen of Death", i.e. the Windows screen you get when it crashes. My friends that I talk to have the same response. I imagine this was intended :)
The plot finds Sunny Randall being hired by Buddy Bollen, a rich mogul who produces movies and also owns a major league baseball team, as a bodyguard for his lover and film star Erin Flint. It just so happens that Erin is not only a stunning beauty but a terrific athlete as well so Buddy plans to have her play on his major league baseball team, the Connecticut Nutmegs, mainly as a publicity stunt. Erin's personal trainer, Misty, is murdered on the Bollen compound in Paradise, Massachusetts and Erin hires Sunny to solve the murder, suspending her role as bodyguard. Jesse Stone, chief of police of Paradise, brings Sunny into his investigation at her request. Of course Sunny and Jesse begin to unravel the unsavory past of both Erin and Buddy with explosive consequences.
I loved Sunny and Jesse together in this novel, which is what kept me reading, despite the preposterous and unbelievable plot. The interplay between Jesse and Sunny is just simply Parker at his best and was a rewarding part of the novel for those who are fans of both series.
The plot is idiotic and why Parker chose such a ridiculous plot is beyond me. First, Erin Flint is a movie star - she's been in People Magazine and similar publications. As we find about her past, the reader realizes just how unbelievable it is that it was kept so well hidden. In this age of paparazzi and aggressive tabloid media, her past would never have gone undiscovered. Secondly, the major league baseball team, the Connecticut Nutmegs??!! First, nobody in their right mind would put a major league baseball team in Connecticut. Second, even if they did, they WOULD NOT call them the Nutmegs. Finally, Buddy Bollen is an unsavory character with mob connections. Again, in this day and age, there is no way a person like Buddy Bollen would be allowed to own a major league baseball team. There is one other glaring gap in the plot that I can't mention as it would be a spoiler. The plot is just completely unbelievable and that totally ruined the novel for me.
Why, oh why, waste such a wonderful concept of bringing these two interesting characters together on a plot that undermines the body of work? I hope to read more about Sunny and Jesse together - but I really hope for a plot that is deserving of them.
When these guys started out, they were great. They actually had their books edited, got feedback, made changes along the lines of good fiction writing. Now, it seems that just putting their name on the cover sells, so why bother with good old fashioned editing?
If Parker reads this, I urge him to slow down! He's so busy churning out books and getting movie deals, that he's lost the art of fiction writing.
Case in point: Blue Screen and High Profile. I can't talk about the latter because I couldn't get through the first 10 pages, with all the "he said" and "she said". Since when does a writer have to tag EVERY line of dialogue?
Blue Screen is terribly written. First of all, the plot is uneven. Parker introduces us to a whole set of characters (the Erin Flint entourage) and then drops them flat for most of the novel. The plot gets lost in myriad uninteresting diversions so that at most points, I just didn't care at all about the murder and I couldn't understand why Sunny or Jesse cared, except insofar as it kept them together.
Then, there were various unbelievable aspects of the plot which other reviewers have mentioned. These were terribly distracting. For ex: Why would a P.I. and a police chief go out of their way to rustle the feathers of a dangerous mobster (Moonbeam)and potential murder suspect when there was NO POINT to their interview with him in the first place? And, more disturbing...how is a small town police chief from MA going to travel to LA with his lover/PI to investigate a murder and then get a luxury hotel room for them both to share on police dept funds? How does the reader continue to admire them as professionals? These are just some of the weaknesses. Then, there are outright repetitions in the dialogue that should have been picked up by editors. I could go on and on.
One more point that bothers me about Parker's recent writing: his portrayal of women. Susan Silverman was cool...smart, professional, sophisticated, and loved unconditionally by her man, who's also a smart guy. But Sunny Randall is like every guy's fantasy chick: cute and blonde, drinks just enough to get it on with you and doesn't expect commitment for it, understands that you are still hung up on your wife, but will sleep with you anyway, and doesn't mind that he has her picture on the bedstand! She's not even that smart...she gets her information because she's cute or knows a powerful man who refers her to another powerful man. And then there's Erin Flint, who has NO personality and nothing to say except "they want to kill me because I am going to play baseball" or the "F" word. Where are the real women here?
Needless to say, I am done with new R.B. Parker books. I will go back to Spenser books I may have missed along the way.
Welcome to Blue Screen.
It's very clear from the get-go, even if you don't read the jacket copy, crossing the streams of these two characters is on Parker's mind, as Sunny goes to meet her client in a fashion time-honored since The Big Sleep. That is, meeting the client on his own rather eccentric turf, in this case, Paradise Mass., the home of one Buddy Bollen.
You could call Buddy a Hollywood Sleazeball, but it might offend Hollywood Sleazeballs. He has an ego as large as his brain is small. He has an expansive mansion, decorated as a tribute to his own infantilism. And he has a movie-star-girlfriend who, while being a stunning physical specimen, is possibly the worst actress on the planet, named Erin Green. She is also, apparently, about to break the gender barrier in Major League Baseball, and Buddy feels there are forces in the game are conspiring to prevent that from happening.
Seems Erin needs protection, and insists on a woman to provide it. Hence, Sunny. Erin is prickly with just about everyone. Rude, self-centered and ignorant. And she hates dogs!
Those familiar with the Sunny Randall series know a key character is Rosie, her miniature Spuds McKenzie, which of course sets up endless conflict between Sunny and her new client. And helps us learn to not like Erin, since Parker is quite fond of making Rosie about the cutest dog on the planet.
Parker is on familiar turf here. Many believe Looking For Rachel Wallace is one of the best in the Spenser series. The difficult-client/heroic-PI format is well-used here again by Parker, as a way to let us into the mindset of a person so used to being property she has forgotten how to be a person.
Soon after hiring on to the case, Erin's assistant, Misty, is murdered. Sunny is summoned to the house, and of course, this being Paradise, the local constabulary is on the scene. That would be Jesse Stone, Suitcase Simpson, and Molly Crane.
Cue the romantic sparks!! As Sunny's followers know, she is tortured by the lack of closure with her ex-husband, and prone to what Erica Jong used to call "zipless" carnal frolic. It's part of what drove her to see Susan Silverman, of course.
So, with convenient revelations regarding both Jesse's ex-wife, Jenn, and Sunny's ex, Richie Burke, the way is paved for Jesse and Sunny. Paved in rose petals, actually. We cheer for these two as they find their way down the path readers know, hope and fear they will take.
As their relationship develops, the case at hand almost takes a back seat. It's at least in the passenger seat, but nevertheless interesting, as Sunny and Jesse travel, at various times, to LA to investigate Buddy's history on that coast, while at the same time, Jesse is able to validate his new life by working with his old boss from the LAPD. On her first trip out to the Left Coast, Sunny finds out not only is Erin's history just a bit murky, but her late assistant Misty was actually her sister. I wouldn't tell you this part if the book flap didn't clumsily say so already. Might've made a fun SURPRISE, eh?
So what we have here is a case, wrapped in a romance, and baked with appropriate care by a man who is so skilled at both, it all feels very natural. Parker delivers some major follow up to the last Jesse Stone novel, Sea Change, here, leading to the idea that he wants all three series to be considered as one.
A small, but interesting, through-line continuing here is the insight longtime Parker readers get of Susan Silverman. Seen through only Spenser's eyes for so long, she has become tiresome to many, we see again her professional side, as observed by Sunny, and it sheds new light on a character whose complexities Spenser readers neither saw nor cared about.
Of course, Parker brings in the rest of Sunny's supporting cast as well, primarily Spike, her best-pal restaurateur, who is caged-lion menace when needed, and empathic friend always. He'll never be a staple the way Hawk is, but he's very entertaining.
Parker is a known quantity, of course. And Blue Screen delivers on the levels that we expect, even demand, from a writer this gifted: Clever first-person perception, snappy dialogue, organic action and quality characterization. And, of course, it makes us eager for the next Spenser!