Those of you who have read my book reviews before know that I’m a fan of Robert B. Parker. Still, he’s written a few books that I checked out and wasn’t enthused with. As an example, I’m not a fan of his Sunny Randall novels, but I love his Spenser and Jesse Stone books. Having been a long time Spenser fan I didn’t really think I’d like the newer characters he came up with. I mean: it took the next generation of Star Trek five years to grow on me before I could even sit through a full episode. Needless to say, I don’t do change very well. That said, his Jesse Stone books proved enjoyable and “Stranger In Paradise” is the latest in that series.
Throughout the storyline there is an implied history of crime that, unless it exists in one of those Sunny Randall novels or in a Robert B. Parker novel I haven’t read (does such exist?), it doesn’t happen in any of the books. That’s why I call it “implied history”. True to Parker’s theme of reliable bad guys, Crow is a bad guy who at least keeps his word and goes out of his way not to harm women and children. He is also, according to Parker’s description, a very attractive man who knows it and uses it to have his way with women. In fact, casual sex seems to be something of a favorite past time for him (not that I blame him for that).
Crow has been hired to find the daughter of a genuine, no morals, no values, bad guy from Miami. Why Crow needs the work is anybody’s guess because he allegedly has millions of dollars floating around from that implied history (a crime he committed) about ten years before the story in Stranger occurs. Again we get a glimpse into his psyche as we see a man… a mllionaire… who doesn’t want to be bored and is looking for the battle that will complete him as a warrior.
In the background of Crow’s hunt for the bad guy’s daughter is the setting of an Hispanic gang whose leader is dating the daughter; a private and high-dollar exclusive community that is valiently trying to prevent the opening of a school for Hispanic youth; the on-going adventures of “Suitcase Simpson” with rich older white women; and an adventure had by Molly Crane… a happily married female cop who does her best to keep Jesse Stone in line. Parker does exceptional work by not being blatant about who is sleeping with whom, but by the same token, those bedroom adventures are an important part of the overall plot.
Put all of that against another layer of drama that exists between Jesse and his ex-but-still-around-and-in-love-with-him wife and you get a story that would certainly test my sanity were I Jesse Stone. In the end, Jesse (the good guy) has to trust Crow (one bad guy) and work with him to overcome some other worse guys like the gangbangers and the crime lord from Miami who is still after his daughter. If you’re a Spenser / Parker fan, think of it this way: Crow is like Vinnie Morris, Chollo, Bobby Horse or maybe even Hawk – though I put few people on the same plain as Hawk. And, after all, Jesse Stone is not Spenser. Spenser could ignore a lot more rules because he was private and not the Chief of Police. Still, Jesse doesn’t let that “Chief” title hold him back much. One of the reasons I enjoy Parker’s books so much is because he recognizes – and writes into his stories quite well – the fact that justice often doesn’t have rules.
If you haven’t read any Jesse Stone novels before this might not be the best one to start with. You need some of the history to really appreciate the tale. Then again, if you’ve read Parker’s Spenser series, you’ll still appreciate this one – and likely end up going to find all the ones that came before it. As always, I look forward to seeing Tom Selleck play Jesse Stone when this one becomes a made-for-television movie. Seeing Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone helps me, in my mind’s eye, envision what’s going on as the story flows. Check it out… I think you’ll like it.
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