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A New Series, a New Character, the Same High Quality
Night Passage
Robert B. Parker
Jesse Stone is a cop on his way down.

Paradise, Massachusetts is a town that isn't quite the idyll it appears on the surface.

Robert B Parker is beginning a new series that bids fair to bring back that snap and magic that i found in the mid-period Spenser books which has, sadly, been somewhat less in evidence in the later ones.

Stone is an LA homicide detective who has hit a bad patch when he realises that his wife is cheating on him, which leads to their divorce which results in his determined attempts to crawl into a bottle of scotch.Which, in turn, leads first to his long-time partner's reluctant refusal to continue working with him and thence to his captain's offer: resign or be fired.

Paradise Massachusetts is one of those neat little Colonial towns full of yuppies and Old Money types, and they just happen to need a Chief of Police... and Jesse is Just What They Want, even if he WAS rather more than half-drunk during his employment interview.

In many ways, this story is an "inverted" mystery story, since Parker all along the way keeps us informed as to what the Bad Guys are up to, alternately with showing us Jesse's growing conviction that Something Bad Is Going On.

Jesse is not the wise-cracking near-thug that Spenser is; he is a good cop (once he discovers that he doesn't HAVE to get plowed every night and remembers how to be one) with a dry understated sense of humour, and an appreciation of the legal, political and practical aspects of his position. Faced with a thuggish body-builder who laughs in his face while telling him that the restraining order his ex-wife has against him is unenforceable, Jesse nods, agrees, and then tells the thug to stay away from her anyway... following up by proving with sudden and effective violence that even if the Court's restraining order is unenforceable, HIS isn't...

The final confrontation is a bit unbelievable, but, then again, i found most of the mechanics of the actual plot a bit strained and creaky (which explains the 3-star rating given how much i enjoyed the book on first reading) -- but the plot isn't really important, in the last analysis; what IS important is Jesse's beginnings on a journey that will being him back to being a complete man and a complete cop, and THAT doesn't creak at all.

Experienced Parker readers, be warned: Jesse Stone, like Spenser with Susan Silverman, carries a lot of emotional baggage and hang-ups regarding his ex-wife (which she reciprocates). On the other hand, though his emotional states are (or appear), much more intense than Spenser's, he mostly doesn't wax quite so lugubrious and elaborately on about it, though this may be mostly because he is presented third-person rather than as first-person narrator.

These minor caveats aside, this book (and, even more, the sequel, "Trouble in Paradise") is highly recommended, especially for whose reading diet lacks a little something lately.

Recommended whole-heartedly.