It took five books, but Robert B Parker has finally found a woman's voice and attitude for Sunny that I find realistic. The first books had Sunny saying loudly to anyone who would listen that she was strong and independent - then she would promptly crumble and look for a man to rescue her. With Blue Screen, Sunny really does stand on her own - and ironically it's a story that immediately brings her in contact with Jesse Stone, from Parker's other series. This *could* have spelled disaster for Sunny's ability to stand on her own, but the pair actually work well together, supporting each other instead of Stone treating Sunny as a little girl.
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 :)