Spread the love, share this post

When mystery author Robert B. Parker passed away, I mourned the end of the Spenser and Jesse Stone mystery series, as well as his Westerns featuring the enigmatic Virgil Cole. Sunny Randall, not so much, as I never quite connected with the female PI and her annoying ex-husband issues.

Like many others, I was of two minds when it was announced that Parker’s novel franchises would continue but be written by other authors. Excitement that more books with favorite characters would be forthcoming, doubt that others could capture the style that made Parker’s books so successful.

Related: Book Review: Cold Service by Robert B. Parker

Ace Atkins took up the Spenser series and really delivered, even as he introduced a new character (Sixkill) who helped expand Spenser’s world. The dialogue still drives the narrative, the pace is still swift, Spenser’s code is still in tact, and Susan and Hawk are still at his side. For the most part, the transfer of authorship has been seamless.

The Jesse Stone series was always a distant second to Spenser in my reading affections and I didn’t keep up as the series grew under new authorship. Parker wrote 9 novels about the ex-minor league shortstop who washed out of the Los Angles Police Department because of his drinking and lands on his feet as the chief of police in Paradise, Massachusetts. After Parker’s death, the franchise was handed off to Michael Brandman who wrote 3 novels, and then to Reed Farrell Coleman who has also written 3.

Has Jesse Stone’s road been as smooth as Spenser’s?

To decide for myself, I read two early Jesse Stone novels, TROUBLE IN PARADISE and STONE COLD, then the last two in the series, THE DEVIL WINS and DEBT TO PAY, both by Coleman.

Here’s my verdict:

The new books dive even more deeply into Jesse’s character. We spend more time inside Jesse’s head as he remains absorbed by his relationships with alcohol, his ex-wife Jenn, and his missed chance to be the world’s greatest shortstop. Jesse is flawed, and Coleman is making the most of it but still in Parker’s nuanced way. Jesse still talks to his picture of baseball great Ozzie Smith. Dix the therapist is back, too, both in Jesse’s thoughts and in scenes in which the two men discuss Jesse’s problems.

In early books Jesse has a number of female friends with benefits; in the later books he’s faithful to a new character named Diana, a former FBI agent now a security consultant in Boston. But there’s a precipice beckoning to Jesse in the form of the new Paradise medical examiner. Tamara is an attractive woman with her own drinking problem. I sense an undercurrent of doubt that Jesse can continue to resist this doubly fatal mix of woman and drink. If you are not tired of alcoholic main characters in mystery novels, then the tension is grand.

Related: Character Sketches, The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

For those who remember Spenser’s run-ins across several books with the Gray Man, Coleman has introduced a similarly continuing bad guy named Mr. Peepers. I’m not sure why Mr. Peepers has spent the last 20 years carrying out his twisted agenda of murder and torture, which would help the believability angle, but he’s a worthy opponent for Jesse.

Two things stand out as significant differences between early and later Jesse Stone novels. First, Coleman has departed from Parker’s staccato pace, except in some dialogue scenes where Jesse does the man-of-few-words act that has always been a character trademark. The pacing is slower and the paragraphs much longer. Indeed, in THE DEVIL WINS, the normally laconic Jesse delivers a 1.5 page paragraph explanation of how he caught the bad guy. Despite the chunky paragraphs, the prose is smooth, although a few awkwardly phrased sentences stand out. The villain’s voice is heard at pivotal moments, the same as when Parker was writing.

Second, there is the assumption that the reader knows the entire series’ backstory. For example, in THE DEVIL WINS, references were made to a person named Crow. This villain appeared in the early STONE COLD, but he and Jesse did not meet. But some 10 books later, it is obvious that both Jesse and Paradise cop Molly Crane have had a previous interaction with Crow. Alas, we don’t know the context or who Crow is. I’ll have to read more of the post-Parker books to find out.

Bottom line is that Jesse Stone is one of mystery fiction’s most complex, irritating, and heroic characters. Coleman has both captured and expanded this persona, while creating villain-based plots that manipulate Jesse’s flaws to good effect.

2 Comments

  1. billy ray chitwood

    Hi, Carmen,
    Enjoyed so much your update on ‘The Jesse Stone Series’ – It has been a favorite of my wife and me for years (Spenser, as well!). Thanks for the new information…we just sped on past the ‘good news’ of the reawakening, and, thanks to you, we’re back on board the JS express (forgive my triteness).
    One thing, though, I did not notice in your update: the beautiful and faithful Golden Retriever… I put down my golden many years ago because of cancer, and he was my very best friend. SO, there MUST be a Golden Retriever or I boycott! lol
    Thanks, again, Carmen… Still enjoying Ms Cruz’ adventures and the nostalgia of old Mexico!
    My best wishes.
    Billy Ray Chitwood
    billyraychitwood.com

    • Carmen

      Billy Ray, great to hear from you. I don’t remember the dog at all mentioned in the last books. Far too much drama with ex-wives and new women. Losing a dog is a crushing blow, too. We lost our wonderful German Shepherd a few years ago and I still miss her. Younger “brother” Dutch doing his best to make up for it, bless his squirmy heart. Lifting a virtual mojito to you and your wife!

Recent Posts

The mystery of the disappearing home office

As 2019 approaches, many of us (self included) look to see the progress made over the past year. For many of us (self included) it was a year of transition. We moved to a new house in a new state. The Dream House, in a place with lots of...

read more

Welcome to the opioid crisis

I spent 30 years with the CIA. My official resume says things like “distinguished record of solutions-driven leadership across multiple mission areas,” and “led program responsible for collection, translation, and analysis of breaking events,”...

read more

Warriors, souls, and the making of AWAKENING MACBETH

My great-uncle Nicky was the second-to-the-youngest of my grandfather’s five brothers. He was missing most of his right index finger. During WWII, while my grandfather turned out copper ship hulls as a foreman at the Revere Copper and Brass rolling mill,...

read more

Subscribe

Subscribe to my every-other-Sunday updates and I'll send you my 5-Sentence Book Review Cheatsheet. 

Find out how to write great reviews in half the time.

FYI: Carmenamato.net uses Amazon Affiliate links.

© 2018 Carmen Amato.

Hello

I'm author Carmen Amato.

I used to work for the CIA, now I write mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco.

Expect risk, power, corruption. And relationships with heat.

More

Starter Library

Get the Detective Emilia Cruz Starter Library

Subscribe to my Mystery Ahead newsletter to get "The Beast" prequel, plus exclusive novella "The Angler" and Who's Who guide to the series. Delivered in 3 easy-peasy emails.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This