NOTE; THIS BOOK IS RATED 3 1/2 STARS - THE ABOVE ONE STAR IS WRONG BUT AMAZON DOESN"T ALLOW ME TO CHANGE IT.
I have been a Robert Parker fan for years and always look forward to a new book by him - whether it is another novel in my long time favorite series, Spenser, or more recently a story in the series which alternately feature Jesses Stone and Sunny Randall. Unfortunately, this new entry in the Jesse Stone series, while enjoyable and in many a typical showcase for his tough guy characters and recent themes, is not up to his usual standards and may not appeal to as broad a group of readers as his stories usually do.
Among the many positive aspects of this novel are the following:
first, the typical concise dialog and witty insights and asides which characterize Parker's work are liberally sprinkled throughout the story;
second, Jessie's interactions with the two police women working with him on the case (his associate Molly and Ft. Lauderdale Detective Kelly Cruz) and the development of their characters added both depth and a positive emotional cast to this depressing tale;
third, the fact that Healy played a significant if minor role and that we learned more about his personal life than in the Spenser series was a definite bonus;
fourth, despite some flaws this was a very good police procedural;
fifth, it is an extremely fast and easy read, and does include a few cameoappearances by Rita Fiore as well; and
sixth and last, the interaction of Jessie and his ex-wife Jenn and the progress in their relationship was reminiscent of the Spenser series when Susan and Spenser were attempting to overcome the problems in their relationship (but which of course had much different origins) and the introspection and self analysis through which they had to proceed.
The following elements, however, weighed on the negative side;
first, the depressing nature of the crime itself and the meaningless lives of quiet desperation led by all the "emotional automatons" involved in Jesse's investigation (the case is a downer for everyone who becomes involved);
second, the overtly sexual nature of the case was not offset by any hint at all of love, passion, romance or other elements which would have added some meaning to the lives of the participants as well as interest for the reader;
third, there several loose threads that are never tied up but more importantly there are a few instances of totally inconsistent facts uncovered during various phases of the investigation which were elements apparently introduced to aid the storyline at the time but were totally contradicted later in the investigation. Unfortunately, I can't discuss details without providing spoilers. (Parker does not reread or proof his work, and thus depends on his editor to correct such mistakes - either through sloppiness or under the pressure of his very tight publishing schedule these were overlooked.) While understandable, I do not think such distractions should be excused in the case of a major author and a top tier publishing house - particularly since this is not the first time that editing mistakes have occurred in his recent work.
In conclusion, if you are a Robert Parker fan, you will recognize his trademark style and several characters in this story. And if you enjoy stories of meaningless sex and voyeurism spiced up by murder and a few other crimes, then this is an adequate entry in that category. This is not just my opinion, Jesse himself states to Molly when she refers to the "victims" in a moment of pity that these are just "depraved, stupid, careless, amoral people". The aspect of the story which made the book worthwhile for me and kept me willing to wade through the depressing scenes was the fact that even more so than usual in Parker's books this was only nominally a murder investigation. In effect, that aspect of the story only provided the backdrop for the reader's ability to participate in Jesse's developing self awareness regarding the fact that the inherent problems in his previous relationship with Jenn revolved around his issues of control and how to deal with his tendency to "objectivize" her. So we see him back in his therapy sessions with Dix, gaining insights from his conversations with Molly and sharing them with Jenn, and realizing that he is as much a compulsive drinker of Coke as he used to be of alcohol when he marvels at Healy's ability to nurse a single beer. Thus, my rating is meant to convey that while I felt that the elements which I enjoyed certainly made this better than a three star novel, I couldn't justify four stars given its flaws. Read it - just don't expect the unalloyed enjoyment that often results from this author's efforts