Well, it now appears that the merging of the Parker-verse is complete. We've had Spenser and Jesse Stone together on a case, and the previous Sunny Randall experience, Shrink Rap, was in large part about the titular heroine's initiation of therapy with Spenser's girl, Dr. Susan Silverman. So all that's left is for Jesse and Sunny to work together on a case.
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!