Review

Death in Paradise: A Jesse Stone Novel

by Robert B. Parker



It is both a blessing and a curse to be typecast. You work to
establish an identity and, if you're part of the lucky one percent
that catches the public eye, you work like crazy to establish an
identity that people look for, seek out, want. That's the
blessing part. The "curse" part comes when you want to try
something new. Your hard-core fans will seek out whatever you do,
but more often than not, your new, or different, work passes under
the radar of public perception.

In the case of Robert Parker, he has hit the mark --- and then some
--- with his Spenser novels. Slap Robert Parker on the spine and "A
Spenser Novel" across the cover and you've got all the pub you
need. I'm sure he's not complaining. He worked for years to get to
that point and now he's there. Great. Except...create a new
character and it's almost like starting over again.

Such is Parker's blessing and curse with Jesse Stone. Parker's
third Jesse Stone novel, DEATH IN PARADISE, is in danger of missing
a lot of scanners, and this is quite unfortunate; Stone is one of
mystery literature's most interesting new protagonists.

Stone is a former L. A. cop whose alcoholism resulted in the loss
of two of the elements in his life most important to him: his job
and his marriage. He has gotten a second shot at both. He is the
police chief of a small east coast town called Paradise, and his
ex-wife lives nearby, which permits them to maintain a relationship
of sorts, one they are both still coming to grips with. Stone
continues to do battle with alcohol, abusing it frequently, dancing
on the edge of the abyss. It is against this backdrop that DEATH IN
PARADISE begins, with Stone being present when a decomposed body is
discovered in a lake.

It quickly becomes obvious that this is not a case of death by
drowning; the deceased was shot and dumped. The investigation
proceeds slowly. It develops that the deceased is a young woman
whose engine idle was stuck on "high" and whose own parents had
disowned her. Stone is not supernaturally gifted in the detection
department but is experienced with murder investigation, which
makes him a standout in a police force that is used to dealing with
far more mundane matters. At the same time, Stone possesses
elements of doggedness and perseverance that make up for whatever
other qualities he may lack. His investigation leads him to a shady
underworld figure in Boston before taking an improbable left turn.
There is, it turns out, more than one tragic victim here. Stone is
ultimately able to see that justice is done, though not all of it
is administered in a courtroom.

Those who are somewhat put off by Spenser's good-natured but
consistent self-assuredness would be well-advised to check out
Parker's Jesse Stone novels. Stone's vulnerabilities are out there;
his problems with alcohol, both primary and secondary, are not
resolved by the close of DEATH IN PARADISE. Stone, though presently
overshadowed by Spenser in Parker's universe, is an extremely
interesting character who deserves more exposure and certainly more
acclaim. If Parker continues to follow his present schedule --- an
annual Parker novel with an alternating Sunny Randall and Jesse
Stone novel on a yearly basis --- he may soon find that, as far as
Stone is concerned, an appearance once every two years is not
enough.

  

Reviewed by Joe Harlaub on January 21, 2011

Death in Paradise: A Jesse Stone Novel
by Robert B. Parker

  • Publication Date: October 1, 2001
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult
  • ISBN-10: 0399147799
  • ISBN-13: 9780399147791