This past April, I had the privilege and pleasure of reviewing Robert B. Parker's last book, SIXKILL. I was still grieving over not only the death of one of the world's best writers, but also the loss of his many characters I have come to know and love. The review included my feelings about these losses. Then, a few months ago, I discovered that a colleague of Parker's had written a new Jesse Stone story. Wow. Not to be disrespectful, but I felt like a good friend had been resurrected from the dead.
"I did have some reservations about a “new” writer bringing Jesse Stone back to life, but those soon evaporated as I was immediately pulled into the latest action and adventure in Paradise."
For anyone who has not had the pleasure of enjoying this series, Jesse Stone is the chief of police in Paradise, a small Massachusetts town. The Board of Selectmen hired him after he was fired from the Los Angeles Police Department for inappropriate behavior while intoxicated. The board members believed that he would continue his tireless drinking and thus be easy to manipulate. And politicians love to manipulate the police. Little did they know how smart and insightful Jesse could be when sober.
On a lovely spring morning, before Jesse has his first cup of coffee, he is confronted with the theft of several Hondas, all within a few hours of each other. Then neighborhood dogs are being strangled. In addition, there are rumors that Boston-based mobsters are looking to expand into Paradise. Meanwhile, the town leaders are looking forward to the tourist season, which inevitably brings lots of revenue into their banks and businesses. They put pressure on Jesse to get these things cleared up before the visitors start arriving. The mysteries are solved in Jesse's inimitable style, and he even has a little time for a new romantic interest.
One of the qualities that I admire in Parker's characters is their civility and basic good-spiritedness. Too many authors today, for my taste, have built their stories around callous, unrelenting, often nasty characters who steamroll over everyone in order to do things their own way. In contrast, Jesse and his officers have funny but kind interactions, whether he is teasing Molly about making his coffee or reprimanding a rookie about a serious mistake. For example, when Molly offers to get Jesse some coffee, Jesse wonders what the heck is wrong.
He says, “You have frequently used coffee as a tool to bust my chops.”
Molly says, “You noticed?”
“Well, maybe today is an off day.”
“An off day?”
“The once-a-year 'don't bust Jesse's chops' day, Molly said.”
I love it!
I did have some reservations about a “new” writer bringing Jesse Stone back to life, but those soon evaporated as I was immediately pulled into the latest action and adventure in Paradise. And there are probably very few who could have accomplished the task other than Michael Brandman. He had often worked with both Parker and Tom Selleck on the Jesse Stone made-for-TV movies, many of which he co-wrote and co-produced. In other words, Brandman had first-hand familiarity with the Chief and his crew on the Paradise, Massachusetts, police force. Needless to say, KILLING THE BLUES will join the other favorites on my Robert B. Parker bookcase.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on September 15, 2011