"Ten years in L.A. Homicide hadn't extinguished his sense of romantic possibility," describes Jesse Stone just a few pages into Robert Parker's second book in this new series. Nor has 20 years of writing Spenser books extinguished Parker's sense of romantic possibility. Without this quality --- shared by Stone, Spenser, and obviously Parker --- how else could Jesse Stone have come to be?
If you have read the Spenser books but not NIGHT PASSAGE --- which marked Jesse Stone's debut --- you may recognize some of the traits that make Spenser such a long-lived and loveable hero. Both Spenser and Stone are in law enforcement, although Stone is still a cop while ex-cop Spenser operates within the private venue. Both Spenser and Stone are attractive and attracted to women --- but with varying degrees of success in the fields of matrimony and monogamy. Both Spenser and Stone have a good sense of humor and a wicked tongue. In each crime series, while Parker's voice comes through loud and clear, Spenser and Stone emerge as two distinctly different creatures.
The nature of the crimes also varies. Jesse Stone, now Chief of Police in Paradise, Massachusetts, works within the confines of the establishment and the crimes he deals with are necessarily of a different ilk than the one-on-one tough-guy business that Spenser does. Also, the relationships between Stone and his staff, and between Stone and his peers in the other arms of law enforcement, have more subtleties and complexities than first glance seems to indicate. Stone takes a younger police officer under his wing, letting the young man make his own mistakes but also giving him free reign to meet his own challenges. There's a slight paternalistic edge with Jesse Stone that is charming without being patronizing.
In TROUBLE IN PARADISE, Stone grapples with the nuances of several relationships, including the fact that his ex-wife, Jenn, has moved to town and is now the "weather girl" at a local television station. In addition, Jesse has to adjust to the ripple effects of a past relationship with Abby Taylor, town counsel turned defense attorney. To make matters more complicated, Jesse also gets involved with Marcy Campbell, a realtor on nearby upscale Stiles Island, when she brings two prospective clients to a cocktail party for the town's power brokers.
Unbeknownst to Marcy and Jesse, but not to the reader, these two prospects are actually a career criminal looking to make the score of a lifetime and the one person in the world who really loves him. Jimmy Macklin has just been released from prison and with the help of his lover, Faye, is already planning "the mother of all stickups." His plan is to gather a group of criminal specialists, cut off Stiles Island from the mainland, and rob not only its bank but every wealthy islander.
Parker effectively alternates chapters of Jesse Stone --- his day-to-day police work, including the solving of a local hate crime, and his romantic entanglements --- with chapters of Macklin gathering his cohorts and planning the Stiles Island robbery. Things begin to heat up when Macklin can't resist playing cat and mouse, starting with taking hostage a personal friend of Jesse's. The denouement is suspenseful and energetic as Parker's flawed hero comes to the rescue, and the addage "there's no honor among thieves" is proved yet again.
As with the Spenser books, the most enjoyable parts of TROUBLE IN PARADISE are the development of the relationships amongst the characters, the background stories, and the witty repartee. There are also some Boston references that will delight Spenser readers. While TROUBLE IN PARADISE can stand alone as another solid Parker book, the foundation laid in NIGHT PASSAGE provides a welcome dimension to the enjoyment of this newest novel.
The inventive crime adds the requisite element of "trouble" in Parker's signature suspense style, the dialogue is Parker at his best, and it's joyfully obvious that Jesse Stone has all the makings of a character to be reckoned with as he wrestles with his own demons in PARADISE.
Reviewed by Jami Edwards on January 23, 2011