Slow Burn by Ace Atkins

Slow BurnRobert B. Parker’s Slow Burn

by Ace Atkins
Series: Spenser, #44

Hardcover, 304 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016

Read: May 5, 2016

On the Greenway, a carousel turned to calliope music. The two men approached me. They tried to act like they were shopping, but they were as unobtrusive as a couple of linebackers at a Céline Dion concert.

Say what you will about the relative merits of Atkins’ two current series, but you won’t get lines like that from Quinn Colson (maybe from Lille Virgil). (That’s not really the best line of the book — it’s just the one that requires the least setup)

We’re introduced to a new world here — the Boston Fire Department, and the Arson investigators in particular (but not exclusively). It’s a little harder for Spenser to work his magic here, at least at first, being very much a duck out of water. But, he keeps at it, and eventually things start falling into place — even if he makes one serious (and perhaps life-threatening) mistake early on. There’s a series of suspected arsons, but the proof is minimal, and it doesn’t push the investigators in the right direction — or any direction, really. The usual motives (fascination with fire, insurance money) don’t seem to be involved here.

I should add that the motive for the crimes is interesting, if misguided. I’d almost like to see a bit more of it explored by the good guys, but that’s not what this book is about.

Spenser and his allies do their thing, the way they always do (but fueled by a different donut source). The same ol’ charm, wise cracks, and fists eventually do their job. I think this one is a notch above Atkins’ last — a couple of notches below Atkins or Parker at their best, but better than Parker’s average. The fact that I have to work this hard to decide where exactly in the 40+ this one lies says something — it’s on the good end, I should stress — but it’s hard to distinguish this from the master himself, Robert B. Parker.

There’s some good fodder for long-time fans here — Marty Quirk has a new job, Frank Belson has a new boss (one not particularly taken with Spenser). Not only do we get a callback to Mattie Sullivan, but we get a couple from the more distant parts of Spenser’s past — A Catskill Eagle and Promised Land, one of my least favorites and one of Parker’s best. Atkins’ ability to use for the current narrative, comment on, and tap into fanboy nostalgia all at the same time is really something to watch.

Atkins is again feeling confident enough in his role here to make significant moves in Spenser’s life — not to mention Pearl’s and Sixkill’s. I’m not sure I’m crazy about the latter two, but I’m trusting Atkins. I’m pretty sure he has a plan regarding our favorite disgraced athlete that’ll pay off. Can’t help but wonder what Parker had in store for him, though.

Speaking of plans and things in store — it’s pretty clear that Atkins has a plan for Jackie DeMarco, too. I hope it takes a few books to pull it off, but I fear it won’t.

I’m very glad to hear that we’ve got at least two more of these coming, Atkins is really helping me stay in touch with an old, old friend. I smiled, I chuckled, I even laughed a couple of times, and I reminisced a little, while wondering just how Spenser was going to save the day. All in all, a good way to spend a couple of hours. Now I’ve just got to count down the months until #45.

—–

4 Stars

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The Devil Wins by Reed Farrel Coleman

The Devil WinsRobert B. Parker’s The Devil Wins

by Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Jesse Stone, #14
Hardcover, 342 pg.

G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015

Read: September 11, 2015


There’s no good reason for me to have difficulty writing about Coleman’s Jesse Stone, but I twice in a row now, I have. It looks like it’ll take me less than a month to get this up, so that’s something I guess (but it should’ve taken me less than a day!) But man, I love these books!

In this one, on page 3 there was a line I wanted to read to my wife, on page 4 I was grinning. It was so good to be back in Paradise, MA. Chapter 2 served as a a reminder this wasn’t Parker’s Stone, this was Coleman’s. Which is not necessarily better or worse, just different — it’s still the same world, populated with the same people, it’s just told differently. The Devil Wins started strong and stayed that way.

One of the things that distinguished this series from the Spenser series (and later, Randall — which felt like Spenser) was the atmosphere — this was a gray world (so well captured in the movies). Not just morally (and that could be argued, I think), but weather, mood, outlook on life of the characters — economy of the community, even. Later, Parker seemed to pull back on that — either deliberately, or for the same reason that Spenser’s backstory changed. Coleman has returned to the gray, and amped it up a bit, his style brings that into focus. His dialogue might not be as snappy (and it’s not), but it’s thoughtful, as is the narrative and his descriptions. You can almost feel this world as much as see it.

Every town has its dark secrets, the events people don’t like to remember, or discuss, or admit they happened. Paradise has a few of those, I’d wager — one of them was that about twenty-five years ago, two high school girls disappeared without a trace. While most presumed (maybe hoped) that they’d been killed, there were no suspects, no motive, no evidence. Eventually, time moved on and the town collectively repressed the events. A fresh homicide investigation leads to the discovery of two much older bodies — everyone assumes (and it’s quickly confirmed) that it’s these two girls. Now Jesse has to deal with two investigations — one fairly low-priority, and one that is bringing back ghosts for everyone in Paradise (and is attracting plenty of attention from the rest of the world).

After putting his own mark on Jesse in Blind Spot, Coleman moves on to Suitcase Simpson and Molly. Don’t get me wrong, this is still Jesse’s book, and his presence dominates the narrative. But it’s in these pages that Coleman plants his flag on Suit and Molly. Suit is possibly at his most self-aware here, almost dying can do that to a person (making Coleman’s tweak totally justified), we don’t get as much time with him as we do with Molly, but what we do is golden. More importantly, Jesse has to be honest with himself about Suit — and that clarity will drive their relationship going forward. If Coleman hadn’t delivered with the rest of the book, but had with this? It’d have been worth it.

Parker, Coleman (and Brandman) hadn’t given us too many details about Molly outside of her outstanding work as Jesse’s conscience, aide, and friend. We got the little fling with Crow, and some references to her family, and that’s it. Which is exactly the way that Officer Crane wants it. But sometimes, you can’t keep that wall between your personal and professional as high as you want to — sometimes the past comes back to haunt you — and it does in spades for poor Molly. In the end, we don’t learn that much about her that we didn’t know, but it’s easy to see how what Coleman shows us helped shape her into the woman she is. (Minor spoiler ahead, skip to the next paragraph if you want) One of the two girls was Molly’s best friend, and by all rights, she should’ve been with her the night they disappeared. The discovery of the bodies, what they learn during the investigation, shake the seemingly unflappable Officer Crane to her core.

One more reason for her boss to take care of business. Not that he really needs it. Especially when more bodies start to show up.

Best part of this book for me? There’s no Gino Fish. There’s no deus ex mafia providing the solution for Jesse. It’s procedure, dogged determination and criminal stupidity — plus a little dumb luck that helps Jesse conclude what happened twenty-five years ago and today.

In addition to the great character work with our old friends, we get to focus on three new friends of Jesse’s in this book — two of whom are long-time residents of Paradise that we haven’t encountered yet, one is new to town. Jesse enlists the assistance of the editor of Paradise’s newspaper with the historical elements of his case (the police files were not up to snuff) in exchange for exclusives on a story starting to get some national attention. An insurance agent/city councilman who has been Jesse’s biggest supporter in Paradise’s government encourages him to keep on track and solve the crimes in a hurry (and when that fails, turns to threats). There’s a new Medical Examiner in the area (whose departure from NYC is similar to a certain LAPD detective’s) who befriends Jesse — she’s smart, attractive, and interested in more — but for now they decide on friendship.

I guess I should quickly mention the other women in Jesse’s life, having talked about Tamara Elkins. She’s talked about a couple of times, but we don’t get to see the new character from the Blind Spot, Diana Evans, which is a shame. I hope that changes soon, Coleman certainly leaves the door open for it, although Coleman’s going to have to start using surnames that don’t sound so similar. I thought Jen was around juuuuuust enough for my taste (I also appreciated the talk about Sunny Randall).

I find it amusing how many people I’ve seen complain about Jesse’s drinking being talked about so much. His battle with the bottle was a focus from Day 1 — sometimes more successful, sometimes less so — but always, always a presence, often discussed no matter if he was drinking or not. It’s there, it’s looming, Stone battles it as he does the rest of his demons (the “it could have been” of baseball, and Jen) — while doing what he can for these girls and the community.

Once again, Coleman strikes the right atmosphere and mood, captures the essence of the characters — while not keeping them frozen in amber, tells a very Parker-esque story in his own manner, and makes me seriously consider moving to a fictional Massachusetts town, despite the troubling homicide rate. It wasn’t as good as his first foray into this world, but I’m not sure it could’ve been, and it was close enough to justify reading it a few times anyway. Please, sir, I want some more.

—–

4 1/2 Stars

Kickback by Ace Atkins

KickbackKickback

by Ace Atkins
Series: Spenser, #43

Hardcover, 292 pg.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons , 2015
Read: May 20, 2015

As you may have noticed yesterday, I read Ace Atkin’s latest novel featuring Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. Now, with Ace Atkins/Reed Farrel Coleman taking over Robert B. Parker’s characters it’s really hard for me to be dispassionate/critical — unless they annoy me — or worse (see Michael Brandman, or — <a href="https://irresponsiblereader.com/2014/01/28/murder-in-the-ball-park-by-robert-goldsborough” target=”_blank”>Robert Goldsborough doing that for Rex Stout). I am capable of actual critical thought, I think. I’m pretty sure. But it takes time, and I just want to get this up. Soooo, I’m going to try to throw up some quick thoughts/impressions on Kickback

It started off strong — a couple pages of intro material from a third-person point of view that established a hopeless, inevitable tone. And then we turn the page and get something that might as well be vintage Parker. I smiled like a goofball throughout the note-perfect first chapter. It was like visiting an old, dear friend. Speaking of old friends, loved the callback to The Godwulf Manuscript (which, because I’m that kind of nerd, I feel compelled to point out I recognized before Atkins spelled it out). Atkins has been, and continues to be, skilled at dropping in these bits of Spenser’s background — enough to demonstrate that he knows the world and to satisfy fans like me — but not so much to clutter up things. Still, it’s time for Paul to show up.

As this is the 43rd installment of this series, it’s going to be reminiscent of a few others — there’s a little bit of Small Vices in this, and a couple of others, but this is primarily a new Ceremony, but without the moral ambiguity. In this case, we have judicial (and police) corruption tied to a private prison (in all but name) for adolescents in a small town. Some people have tried to fight this, but it only serves to make things worse — fatally so in some cases. This isn’t anything new to Spenser or crime fiction, in fact, it’s borderline cliché. But Atkins treats it with respect, and uses the tried and true story to reflect on current problems with the prison industry.

Hearkening back to Crimson Joy (maybe others that I’m not remembering), we have some third-person intercalary chapters — more successful than the serial killer’s POV in the earlier work. These trace the arrest, court appearance and detention of one of the town’s youth. Not Spenser’s client — but someone he befriends. The knot in my stomach got tighter and tighter each time. Really well done.

I continue to like Susan à la Atkins, she’d gotten boring during Parker’s later years, but she’s back and fun. Hawk is still Hawk, but Atkins has turned back the clock a bit on him, too. I’m going to stop here before I mention how Belson, Quirk, and so on have received similar treatment. This has reinvigorated the series, renewed my interest (and, from what I’ve seen) and the interest of others — this is just what Spenser needed. Yes, I’d rather Parker had done this — but I’m glad Atkins has in his place.

I do think the last fifty pages or so were rushed — things outside the detention center seemed rushed — another chapter or two spent gathering evidence might have helped me accept things. Still, so many other things in this one worked so well, I was able to overlook it (I might have harsher things to say later on, or with future re-reads).

I’m giving this 5 Stars. I’m not utterly convinced it earned it — if it was another author with another P.I., I might not. At the same time, from page 1 on, I was hooked and only put this down for a few seconds at a time when work required it until I was done. I laughed, I worried about a couple of clients, I had fun — I was thoroughly engaged the whole time. Which pretty much equals 5 Stars no matter who wrote it and who starred in it. I really, really liked it — but I could’ve told you that was probably going to be the case months ago when I ordered it.

—–

5 Stars

Gone Readin’ – Robert B. Parker’s Kickback by Ace Atkins

Just as soon as I start to make headway on my backlog, I pull something like this…

No post today, unless something big happens — yesterday, I received the latest Spenser novel, Kickback by Ace Atkins and well…nothing’s happening ’til I’m done with that.
Kickback
Even if you don’t like Spenser, or Atkins, if you’re reading this blog, I trust you understand the impulse.

See you tomorrow.

add atkins to the authors, tag this with current reading, etc.

The Best Novels I Read in 2014

I somehow failed at this exercise last year, but I managed to pull it off for 2014. Phew, starting the year off with one in the Win column! Before we get to The Best of, if you’re really curious, here’s a list of every book I read in 2014.

While compiling the best, I started with what I’d rated 5 stars — just 11 novels. I could take just the best 10 of those — piece of cake, right? Wrong. There were titles I expected to see there that weren’t, and a couple that I was surprised to see listed. So I looked at the 4 and 4½ books — and had a similar reaction.

Now, I stand by my initial ratings — for honesty’s sake as much as laziness. But I did put some of my lower rated books in the best, knocking some 5-star books out. They might have been impressive workds, doing everything I wanted — but some of these others stuck with me in ways the 5’s didn’t — emotional impact, remembering details/stories in more vivid detail, that sort of thing.

Eh, it’s all subjective anyway, so why not? I did try to account for recency bias in this — and pretty sure I succeeded, but I may owe an apology or two.

Later today, I’ll post the Honorable Mentions list and the Worst of List — as well as what I’m looking forward to most in 2015. The Day of Lists, apparently. With one exception, I limited these lists to things I hadn’t read before (it shows up in the Honorable Mention post). Enough jibber-jabber, on to the Best Novels I read in 2014:

(in alphabetical order)

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy, #1)Red Rising

by Pierce Brown
My Review
This was exciting, compelling, devastating, thrilling, and occasionally revolting. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve recommended this one to this year.
5 Stars

Skin Game (The Dresden Files, #15)Skin Game

by Jim Butcher
My Review
It almost feels like a cheat to put this on the list, but I don’t know if any of the books since Changes would’ve made a year end list, so it’s not like Butcher/Dresden owns a spot here. I laughed, I got pretty darn misty a time or two, I’m pretty sure I audibly reacted to a victory also. Best of this series in awhile.
5 Stars

The Girl With All the GiftsThe Girl With All the Gifts

by M.R. Carey
My Review
This probably would’ve gotten 5-star rating from me if it hadn’t had to overcome genre/subject prejudice. Still, freakishly good.
4 1/2 Stars

Robert B. Parker's Blind SpotRobert B. Parker’s Blind Spot

by Reed Farrel Coleman
My Review
Coleman knocked this one out of the park, erasing the bad taste that his predecessor had left, and making me look forward to reading this series in a way I hadn’t for years. As good as (better in some ways, worse in others) Parker at his best.
5 Stars

Those Who Wish Me DeadThose Who Wish Me Dead

by Michael Koryta

My Review
Not the best Koryta book I’ve ever read, but something about this one has stuck with me since I finished it. Solid suspense, exciting stuff.
4 Stars

Endsinger (The Lotus War, #3)Endsinger

by Jay Kristoff
My Review
I knew going in that this was going to be a. well-written, b. brutal and c. a good conclusion to the series (well, I expected that last one, expected tinged with hope.). It didn’t let me down. I admit, I shed a tear or two, felt like I got punched in the gut a couple of times and didn’t breathe as often as I should’ve while reading. Such a great series.
5 Stars

The Republic of ThievesThe Republic of Thieves

by Scott Lynch
My Review is forthcoming
Can’t believe I haven’t finished this review yet — it’s 80% done, I just can’t figure out how to tie the paragraphs together in a way to make it coherent and (I hope) interesting. A lot of this book is a prequel to The Lies of Locke Lamora and yet there was genuine suspense about those parts. Lynch had a big challenge introducing us to a character here that had achieved near-mythic status, and she ended up living up to expectations. Just a gem of a book.
5 Stars

The Winter LongThe Winter Long

by Seanan McGuire
My Review is forthcoming
Again, I’m not sure how I haven’t finished this review yet. McGuire takes a lot of what Toby’s “known” since we met her (all of which is what we’ve “known,” too) and turns it upside down and shakes the truth out. Every other book in the series has been affected by these revelations — which is just so cool. There’s also some nice warm fuzzies in this book, which isn’t that typical for the series. McGuire’s outdone herself.
5 Stars

WonderWonder

by R. J. Palacio
My Review
Heart-breaking, inspiring, saved from being cliché by the interesting narrative choices Palacio made. Yeah, it’s After School Special-y. So what? Really well done. I have no shame saying this kids’ book made me tear up (even thinking about it know, I’m getting bit misty-eyed).
5 Stars

The MartianThe Martian

by Andy Weir

My Review
Very science-y (but you don’t have to understand it to enjoy the book); very exciting; very, very funny. Only book I’ve recommended to more people than Red Rising — I think I’ve made everyone over 12 in my house read it (to universal acclaim). Not sure why I haven’t made my 12-year old, yet.
5 Stars

Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot by Reed Farrel Coleman

This should’ve been done at the beginning of the month, but I wanted to do this book justice, and if I couldn’t hit this out of the park, I didn’t want to swing. Also, (this is partially justification for the delay) I wanted to think about it some before putting pen to paper, so to speak. But it’s now at the point that if I didn’t get something written, I wasn’t going to — so I just did my best, and hopefully have a base hit here. As for thinking about this? Pretty sure I haven’t had a new thought about the book since I put it down — and I’ve thought about it a good deal — I’m just less prone to hyperbole about how great it is now.

Robert B. Parker's Blind SpotRobert B. Parker’s Blind Spot

by Reed Farrel Coleman
Series: Jesse Stone, #13

Advance Review Copy, 339 pg.
Putnam Adult, 2014
Read: August 1 – 5, 2014

One of the major drags (I’d imagine) for the writer in Coleman’s position is all the comparisons — to Parker himself, and to Michael Brandman. But, I don’t really have a choice, how else to you talk about the merits of the 13th book in a series without comparing it to the previous? I guess you could act like this was the first in a series, but that just disrespects what’s gone before (however much one might want to forget some of that).

I know I’ve said a lot of this before — this will (probably) be the last time: When Night Passage was released, I was hooked immediately. Spenser’s series was in the midst of the really rocky post-Taming a Sea Horse period, and it was so refreshing to see Parker really on his game, and with something so fresh, so different. He kept that up for three additional books, and then the series started slipping in quality. I kept buying and reading them — there’d always be a few lines or a couple of chapters that had that ol’ Parker magic, and I liked the characters, but a couple of these were the worst things that Parker ever published. Then following his death, Michael Brandman tried to carry on in three books, none of which were good, and were generally worse than anything Parker had done on a bad day. So, I was pretty hopeful and enthusiastic when it was announced that Reed Farrel Coleman was going to take over the series — at this point, all I’d read by him was his essay about Jesse in Penzler’s In Pursuit of Spenser, but that was enough to get me hopeful.

Unlike what Atkins is doing (pretty well) with Spenser — trying to retain Parker’s voice; and what Brandman did (disastrously) with Jesse — trying to keep the feel of the CBS/Selleck movies; Coleman is keeping the characters and the world, but writing them in his own voice (or maybe not his natural voice, but in a voice unique to him). This, coupled with Coleman’s own strengths as a writer, gives Jesse Stone a freshness, a richness, and a quality that’s been missing since the end of 2003’s Stone Cold. Just in word count alone, Coleman shines above the sparseness of Parker’s writing — it doesn’t feel bloated, it’s well-paced, but Coleman takes a lot more time and words to tell his story — this is a strength, everyone gets fleshed out. Ideas are followed up on, shades of gray are introduced to events — this is a more complex novel than others in the series.

There are, of course, several references to events and people in earlier books — far more than is typical for a Jesse Stone novel. Some of them come across as natural, others are more like nods to the reader, some feel like Coleman trying to establish his bona fides — “Trust me, I know the series.” At this point, I welcome them all — I like to be reassured, I like being reminded of books I liked — but if he keeps it up at this pace, it could get old really quick.

One of thing that gets mentioned in every Jesse Stone novel is that he was in the Minor Leagues and probably would’ve made it to the Major League, if he hadn’t suffered a career- ending injury. He keeps a large picture of Ozzie Smith on prominent display in his sparsely furnished and decorated home. He tosses a ball into an old glove while he thinks. It is the great unknown in Jesse’s life — and probably what really got him drinking seriously. He knows that he and Jen couldn’t ever make it work (as much as he still wants it to), he knows what kind of cop, employee, and leader he is — he even knows just how much his drinking is messing up his life. What he doesn’t know? Could he have made the Big Leagues? Could he have been a great — or even just good — player. But we’ve never seen Jesse spend much time on that — a little here and there. An occasional toast in the general direction of Smith’s picture. But that’s it, until now. Now Coleman gives us a Jesse brooding over how things turned out — a few times, beyond brooding and moved right into nasty and bitter. It never occurred to me before how little Jesse thinks about this chapter in his life — maybe it’s because Parker (apparently) lived without a good deal of self-reflection that he didn’t know how to write Jesse doing just that. I don’t know, but it was a mistake — and I’m glad that Coleman has addressed it. It doesn’t need to become an obsession or anything, but something that he thinks about from time to time is good. It might even be healthy.

Jesse’s ruminations on his thwarted career are prompted by a reunion of his Minor League team, hosted by the only member of that group to make it to the Major League, Vic Prado. During the festivities, both Vic and his wife approach Jesse individually, saying they want to talk to him about something. Neither tells him what they want to talk about, but it’s serious, and has nothing to do with a reunion. Meanwhile, in Paradise, a rich college kid and his girlfriend are crashing his parents’ vacation home for some undisturbed time together. One will be killed and the other kidnapped. Add in a vicious mob boss and his Irish enforcer, a wealthy man and his criminal defense lawyer. a federal agent obsessed with a target, and one of the scariest hit-men I can remember. The result is a novel with a lot of moving pieces, shifting targets and high stakes. That said, it didn’t take long to figure out what’s going on with the various and sundry criminal interests and enterprises involved here — but it’s still very intriguing to watch the pieces be put in place until there’s a very clear picture of everything that’s going on .

Coleman took better advantage of what a third-person omniscient narrator could do than Parker ever did. Not only are we told Jesse’s story, we see a lot more of the stories of the other characters — particularly the various criminals running around here. In the end, I felt like I understood why each character did something, and who they were in general — not just Jesse’s interpretation of their motivations.

There were a lot of little moments in this book that worked so well, that moved this out of the range of Brandman — and out of the range of a lot of books in the genre. Two examples were the chapter where the “woman the folks in Scottsdale knew as Dee Harrington” evaluated her last (and lost) opportunities, and came to some big decisions — and the chapter where the parents of the murder victim arrive with Molly to identify the body. The way that Coleman is able to reveal and establish character, or to underline what we knew about other characters while showing us new sides or aspects to them, is such a pleasure to watch. Character and plot development aside, just some of what he’s able to say about the human experience is impressive.

Of course, at one point, Jesse comes across a woman being harassed by tough guy of some sort. Rather than mind his own business, arrest the guy (he has an excuse this time — he’s out of his jurisdiction), or involve some other authority; Jesse proceeds to beat the guy up. It’s borderline gratuitous, and it’s fairly typical of the series. We get a little flash of the mean, brutal side of Jesse that he normally keeps under wraps, but that really informs most of his life; this is also a bit of Jesse letting off steam from the frustrations of his murder case, there’s also a bit of chivalry. This is really Jesse Stone in a nutshell. This does nothing to the overall search of the killer and for answers for what’s behind the kidnapping. But it reminds us about the person that Jesse Stone is — he’s hard, he’s not that emotional, and he has a very strong sense of what’s legitimate and what’s just wrong when it comes to public behavior.

Seeing echoes of Harry Bosch’s creed of “Everyone matters or no one matters” in John Ceepak last year started me looking for things that revealed other detective’s guiding philosophies, or drives, and doing so has helped me understand a lot of these characters better (whether it’s a new character to me or one that I’ve been reading for years). When Jesse arrives at the initial crime scene, we’re given insight into what makes Jesse the cop he is:

Jesse understood that his demeanor at crime scenes sometimes led his cops to believe he thought hat one corpse was like the next, that one murder victim was like any other. He supposed that it was okay for them to believe that. He also supposed it was true, if not completely. Every murder victim deserved justice, needed an advocate. Just as every living citizen was entitled to equal protection under the law, so too were the murdered entitled. Yet some victims were more equal than others. Maybe that wasn’t fair or right, but it was human, and cops were owed that much leeway.

There’s a semi-redemption for one of the criminals involved in this mess that struck me. It’s not one that I think Parker would’ve given that particular guy — I’m not altogether sure that Parker would’ve paid as much attention to him as Coleman did. However, both the character and his semi-redemption are consistent with Parker’s world. Jesse, Spenser, Virgil and maybe even Hawk, would approve of this guy’s change, his reasons for doing so and how he attempted it.

There’s one other character I’d like to talk about, but I can’t quite figure out how to do so without spoiling far too much. But if you read the book, you’ll understand the one sentence I’m allowing myself, “I found myself really liking __________, and hope we see a lot more of her in future novels.”

I do have a few minor gripes and I’m going to list all of them to provide a little balance (I feel like I’m gushing more than is becoming). Some word choices repeated too often (at least often enough that one noticed). The way that the Joe Breen talked seemed off somehow — and not in a purposeful way. I either got used to it, or eventually Breen’s dialogue improved, I got too involved in everything else about him that I forgot to track that.

I’m not loving the fact that Jen comes back into the picture, while he was never really going to get over her, Jesse seemed to have moved on in Parker’s last books. But, Coleman did brought her back in just the right way, so I’m only complaining about it as a formality.

My real problems are about the way that Suit and Molly were treated. Coleman says that he loves Suit (“How can you not?” he correctly asks in some of the promotional material). But he doesn’t use him as much in this book as he should. Coleman nails every line involving Officer Simpson, which is encouraging, but there aren’t enough of them.

I have three distinct problems with the way he used and depicted Molly. There’s a set banter between Jesse and Molly — she’ll say something disparaging or critical (in jest or not) about him, he’ll echo her jab adding “Chief” to the end — and she’ll eventually do the same. It’s cute enough, and Parker over-used it, too. But not as much as Coleman did — wow, dude. You’re on the verge of parody here. Honestly, Coleman might use the catchphrase as frequently as Parker did, but since Coleman has more Molly/Jesse conversations in this book than in a typical Parker, it seems worse.

Secondly, yes, Molly had one brief dalliance with Crow back in Trouble in Paradise, and yes, Jesse has brought it up on occasion. But Coleman has the Chief doing so several times in this book — almost brow-beating her with it. I don’t have a count, but I’d be willing to believe Jesse brings it up as often here as he has in the last ten books. Hyperbole aside, it seems out of character.

Lastly, in various points in the past, we’ve read, “Molly Crane had a pretty good body, Jesse thought, for a cop with three kids.” Parker’s Jesse keeps using that qualifier “for a cop with three kids.” But in this book we get a different kind of reaction — at least from the other males that see her (I don’t remember Jesse reflecting on her body in general or on specifics of it like others do). Maybe Molly’s been spending time with Tony Horton DVDs, I don’t know, it just didn’t feel right to read the comments made about her. Part of Molly’s appeal is that she’s — for lack of a better term — “real.” She’s not the glamorous type from Los Angeles. She’s a small-town cop and a Roman Catholic mom of three. Keep her that way.

None of this is a deal killer for me, but I hope that Coleman makes some adjustments to the way he uses Molly in the future, and that he just uses Luther “Suitcase” Simpson more.

All in all — a great read. Coleman has made Jesse Stone his own, while maintaining the universe that Parker created. Lee Goldberg said that Coleman “has saved Jesse Stone.” Indeed he has, and I’m so happy to be able to say that.

One more comparison to Parker before I’m done — not in his almost 70 novels did Parker end one like Coleman did here. Bravo. It was a gutsy move and it worked just the way you want an ending like this to. Jesse Stone #14 can’t hit the shelves fast enough.

Note:I received this book as an uncorrected proof from the publisher. Which was generous and cool of them, but didn’t impact what I said about the book, I care too much about Jesse to be swayed by that (which isn’t to say I couldn’t be bought if someone wanted to try). I’ll endeavor to verify my quotations with the printed book as soon as I can.

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5 Stars

Dusted Off: Fool Me Twice by Michael Brandman

Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice (Jesse Stone, #11)Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice

by Michael Brandman
Series: Jesse Stone, #11

Hardcover, 288 pg.
Putnam Adult, 2012
Read: September 26, 2012
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

sigh…I shouldn’t have been able to finish this in an hour.

It was fun enough, and I think this was an improvement over Brandman’s first try. But…it was just slight, I guess. Sort of like this review–not a lot to it, but gets the point across.

Not that all of Parker’s Stone books were dynamite, but it was easier to overlook his weaker works because of all the others. Brandman doesn’t have others, just this weak tea.

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2 Stars