This is the third book in Robert Parker’s series about small-town police Chief and big-time alcoholic Jesse Stone. It follows Trouble in Paradise and is followed in turn by Stone Cold. Jesse continues his off-again, off-again relationship with his ex-wife Jenn. She is selfish, ambitions, and emotionally toxic. Jesse can’t stop loving her and can’t stop chasing the possibility that she might start to love him. Tedious.
Fortunately the two major cases Jesse tackles are more interesting, though just as dark. The townie conflict is a recurring domestic abuse case. The husband gets drunk and beats his wife. The wife thinks she doesn’t have any other options and won’t press charges. Jesse and his fellow officers also try to solve the murder of a young girl found in the marsh. The trail leads into Boston—which finally seems as close as it should be—and into the criminal enterprises of one Gino Fish. Et cetera.
Jesse’s ongoing issues are dark and draining, though also oddly comfortable. The cases are engaging and have their little surprises. It’s a good read.
on December 20, 2003
Robert B. Parker is one of my guilty pleasures. Whether it is his long running Spenser series, or the two new series he has started featuring Sunny Randall or Jessie Stone, the books are all pretty much the same. Mr. Parker can be counted on to tell an interesting, relatively simplistic story where evil walks among us and will be struck down as fast as possible. Much like a great Steven Segal movie, the hero will do this almost single handily without a hair out of place and our hero is always a sure hit among the many ladies. When you don't want to have to think to follow along as a reader and you want a guaranteed escape from current reality, Mr. Parker is sure to come up with some enjoyable mind candy. This offering serves as yet another case in point.
Mr. Parker returns to the mean streets of small town life in Paradise, Massachusetts in his recent novel featuring Jesse Stone. Jesse is still the chief of Police and still torn by his love of drink as well as his love for his ex-wife, Jenn. Following up on his theme in Trouble In Paradise, the previous novel of the series, Jesse is still fighting the good fight. He wants Jenn back in the worst way, but is trying to stay strong in his resolve to allow her to find her own life and then decide if he still belongs. Their Wednesday night dates are still on and they remain open to seeing other partners. At the same time, he is still battling the idea that he is an alcoholic and that he will have to deal with it.
Both issues get pushed slightly backward as a body is discovered floating in the lake after a softball game. Jesse thinks he knows who it is and suspects that it is the body of a young teenage runaway. But her family won't acknowledge that she ever existed and due to the condition of the body, identification will take time.
As he and his small force of ten officers begin to work the case, a side story of domestic violence comes to his attention. Splitting his time between both cases becomes a full time effort as he tries to find one killer as well as preventing death in the other case. Jesse has his hands full and hardly breaks a sweat as he goes about his business working both cases.
Mr. Parker keeps up his long tradition of shallow characters, plenty of apparent action and almost continuous dialogue in this novel. At 294 pages in length, one would expect that this novel would not read as fast as it does. However, with so little narration and almost continuous dialogue consisting of very short sentences, it becomes an amazingly fast read. Mr. Parker won't change the world through his novels or how you look at it, but he can make you forget about it for a bit. Reminds one of a really good chocolate candy bar-great going down, but plenty of empty calories. Enjoy the break!
on April 7, 2003
As this series continues, this novel may well portray crucial developments in Stone's life and career, but it fails to satisfy as a crime novel.
Jesse Stone faced a home-grown militia group in his debut novel, followed by a group of cold-blooded criminals pulling off a spectacular robbery in the second. So the murder of a 14 year old girl who's been disowned by her parents due to promiscuous behavior seems rather pedestrian in comparison.
Indeed, the girl Billie's parents, her former boy friend, and her high school principal have little interest. Unfortunately, Parker doesn't seem terribly interested either since we really don't get to know the girl.
However, the focus on Stone's drinking may be a crucial development in the series. Other people's problem drinking is involved in two incidental plotlines, and, along with Jenn's encouragement, may be what it takes to drive Jesse to accept counciling for his own problem.
There are a couple of other developments. After Gino Fish and Vinnie Morris appearing in the two previous books without actually meeting Stone, he meets them face to face for the first time.
There's also development in the relationship between the Chief and his main assistant. Spenser of course has Hawk, and Sunny Randall has her strong support. Jesse Stone has--Suitcase Simpson? Seems like he got shortchanged, but Suitcase does show promise. He still has a bit to go, but under the Chief's tutelage, he might be a respectable police officer yet.
I can't recommend this as a mystery, but do advise Parker fans to read it anyway because it does seem to be leading someplace.
on February 11, 2003
Spenser is a connoisseur of fine wine and beer who has never been drunk. Jesse Stone is a drunk who can't quit even though he's lost his job and ended up in Podunk, his last chance professionally.
Spenser is erudite, quoting poets and philosophers. Stone never went to college and doesn't think he's read 476 pages in his whole life.
Spenser is unfailing insightful and psychological astute, self-aware and ruthlessly honest about his motives and emotions. Stone doesn't know much about his feelings or even think to look into his motives.
Spenser is heroically principled, devoted to Susan no matter what, a man's man who is also a commmited feminist. Stone is a skirt-chaser who is pathetically enmeshed in a relationship with his catting-around ex-wife.
Spenser proceeds by pushing and shaking and seeing what turns up. Stone doesn't want to jostle anyone until he understands everything and can "get 'em all."
Well, you get the picture. Basically, point by point Parker created the antithesis of Spenser. And I find him tiresome and uninteresting.
In my opinion, the weakest of the Spenser novels are more intricately plotted than this book--which lacks much of anything in the way of red herrings or dramatic tension. Stone faces an obvious dark mirror image of himself in the Snyders, a subplot that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the mystery, that never even intersects it main plot, that is just stuck in to let Stone have a moment of self-knowledge--of sorts. The whole book is like that--a lot of plot lines and devices alongside each other without cohering or supporting ach other. To me, this just feels like an author thinking, "Okay, I want to make point x, and what would make point x? Oh--I know," without ever figuring out whether point x, or the way he's decided to make it, has anything to do with developing the story.
I can understand Parker wanting to write series outside the Spenser franchise, but this book seems mechanically conceived to me. Yes, the prose, as always, is excellent. The dialog is as fine as, if not better than, anything in the best Iowa-bred literary oeuvre. But, to my mind, the Spenser series is so singular and great precisely because of the things Parker inverted in creating Stone.
Obviously, some folks like this series. But don't pick it up expecting anything remotely resembling the Spenser novels.
on January 28, 2003
"Death In Paradise", by Richard B. Parker. Audio version (Five tapes) read by Robert Forester. New Millennium Audio, Beverly Hills, CA.
In short, staccato bursts of dialogue, Robert B. Parker tells the story of Chief of Police, Jesse Stone, in the small town of Paradise, north of Boston, Massachusetts. Chief Stone had lost his police job in Los Angeles, lost his first wife and ended up in the small town of Paradise. His experience in Minor League Baseball makes the Chief a star in the local softball league, and that's where the story begins. The softball team's reverie after the early evening game is broken by the discovery of badly decomposed body floating in the lake. The story then grows around Chief Stone's development of his tiny police force by instructing them, with on-the-job training, in big city police tactics.
The dead girl's family has disowned her; the girl had run away, and become part of a sex for pay group. Stone shows his police officers how to act on routine (and boring) stakeouts and finally, he tracks down the murderer. Throughout all of this, the author has interspersed tales of Stone's alcoholism, failure at married life and regrets with the injury that cost him a promising baseball career. About three-quarters of the way through, you begin suspecting the identity of the killer, but these side issues in the life of Chief Stone continue to make the book interesting.
This book appears to be better if it is read aloud. The audio version, read by Robert Forester, flowed naturally and rapidly. Everything seemed to fit together as the book was read. It certainly helped me in the traffic of I-495, around Boston. Speaking of Boston, please let the reader know that the pronunciation of Copely Square is "COP-lee", not the "Cope -lee" used in this presentation.
on November 13, 2002
Robert B. Parker has been writing for a long time, and there are critics everywhere. As he's progressed, his writing has gotten more and more spare, and careful. It's to the point now where he almost doesn't write the book, and you almost don't read it. It sort of flows past you, and only the characters and the action are important. Interesting phenomenon.
This time around, Jesse Stone's weekly softball game is interrupted by the discovery of a dead girl floating in a nearby lake. Stone investigates, and eventually discovers who she is and why she's there. Meanwhile there's a domestic disturbance call (a wife being beaten) that slowly escalates to something worse. The problem with the book, as much as there is one, is that neither of these plots is that interesting, so you have to pay attention to the characters. They at least are diverting, and I did have some fun watching Jesse do his thing. Neither bad guy is that smart, though. I suppose much of the time that's the way it is in real life.
All in all, a decent entry into Parker's library, but not his best book.
on August 14, 2002
The regular evening game of the Paradise Men's Softball League is interrupted when the body of a young woman floats to the surface of the adjacent lake. Since no one can identify the shooting victim, and no one answering to her general description has been reported missing, Police Chief Jesse Stone (Trouble in Paradise, 1998, etc.) relies on routine inquiries and a telltale class ring to identify her as Elinor (Billie) Bishop, universally labeled the "town pump" by her fellow high-school students. Billie's reputation is so dire, in fact, that her own parents deny she's their daughter. The only link Jesse can find for Billie is to the shelter for runaways that Sister Mary John runs in Jamaica Plains. But that link leads in turn to Alan Garner, whose telephone Billie had given as a forwarding number when she left the shelter, and to Garner's boss Gino Fish, the well-connected gay Boston mobster Parker's major-league sleuth Spenser (Potshot, p. 209, etc.) has tangled with now and again. All Jesse has to do is follow the links-if he can tear himself away from the bottle, his ex-wife Jenn, his current love interest Lilly Summers, and the rest of Paradise's troubled citizens for long enough. Parker regulars will find the same extraordinary stillness-as if every scene were still another frozen tableau-that marks the more famous Spenser novels. What they won't find this time is enough action, detection, or real mystery to keep a self-respecting short story from starving to death. Author tour
on March 3, 2002
You have to admire Robert B. Parker's loyalty to one kind of character. He has immortalized the intelligent, poetry-quoting, smart-mouthed, but oh-so-moral, P.I. in the Spenser series, and he has extended that character to a female P.I. in the Sunny Randall books, and to a younger, more fashionable (if alcoholism isn't stylish and trendy, I don't know what is) Chief of Police in the Jesse Stone series. Parker spends a lot of time, in all of these books, defining what is and is not a 'good man.' And his answers are always the same.
So now we have Jesse Stone, faced with the murder of a young prostitute (and of course she was a prostitute, all young women in trouble in Parker books are prostitutes - does that bother anyone else to the point of boycott?); faced with his own weakness whenever he is around his ex-wife (he drinks when he's with her, but not when he's on a date with a new lady; if psychology were really this black and white we would all be sane); and faced with a wife-beater whose victim will not press charges. What it all boils down to, just as it does in most of Parker's books, is the complexity of male/female relationships, and the difficulty of achieving something like balance. This theme is a noble one, and Parker has handled it well in some of the Spenser books. But in the end, apparently, everything is quite simple: Women need protection. Men need to be strong, capable, moral, and careful. And, at least in this installment of the set, life is one big game of baseball (a game, by the way, that women can't possibly understand), where you work with a team but your individual acheivement is instantly rewarded or instantly punished.
As a fan, I really worry about Robert sometimes. Maybe he needs some new friends. Guess what? Some women like baseball. Hardly any of us are prostitutes. And many of us don't need a man's protection at all, although we would love to know someone like Spenser all the same.
You gotta admire Parker's determination to stick with this story line. And you have to admire his ability to sell this same show to the public, book after book, year after year. Check this out of the library and read it and sigh; maybe if we stop buying his books, this fine, fine writer will have to think of something else to write.
on January 7, 2002
This is the first Jesse Stone novel I've read, but it certainly will not be the last. To call it a mystery would be inaccurate, for it more closely resembles a police procedural and character study than anything else. Parker's dialog is perhaps his strongest ability as a writer, but there is plenty of interesting plot and character development to keep the all but the most petulant reader satisfied. Death in Paradise is, in a word, FUN!
Parker has created believable worlds in all of his books with characters and places that ring true and the same is true in Death in Paradise. I get the sense that Parker has or is walking in Jesse Stone's shoes now and again. Stone's realizations about love, addiction, need and purpose are right on the money to the point of appearing to be autobiographical.
His familiar, quick style moves the story along very well and his dialog is always a treat. When a Parkeresque-recognizable Boston crime lord appears, I almost expected Hawk or Susan to walk around the corner and say "Hello!" Parker fans will be pleased, newcomers will be intrigued to read more.
on January 2, 2002
Anyone who has read my reviews knows that I love virtually anything written by Robert Parker. Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I bought this new book as soon as it was in the bookstore or that I am recommending it.
It is interesting that Parker has now written enough different novels about his male private eye, Spenser (28 books), his female private eye, Randall, (2 novels) and his small town police chief, Stone (3 novels) that he has parallel series running simultaniously. In addition he has written a diverse series of other novels.
In this episode Jesse Stone is wrestling with a broken marriage, a drinking problem, a number of other women who are interested in him, and a vicious killing.
As in all Parker novels you get his version of how life really works, a pretty good mystery story, a fascinating soap opera in which you sense more hope than pain and a continuing belief in the power of endurance to help people get through life.
Having read almost all of Parker's work I cannot tell how much of his core philosophy is autobiographical and reflects his own life, how much is an idealized version of what he believes to be true, and how much is what he believes his readers will pay to buy a book and read. In any event he keeps me hooked and I will come back for the next Parker novel on any topic and with any central character he wants to write about.