BOOK: Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker

Well, it was bound to happen sometime, I suppose. After two decades (at least — I’ve lost count) of reading and adoring every single novel Robert B. Parker has written, I finally hit one that left me feeling a little bit ho-hum. This is Parker’s latest installment in the Jesse Stone series, which some of you might know from the books and others might know from the Tom Selleck made-for-TV adaptations of the books (which I’ve enjoyed quite a bit myself). The plot of this one has to do with a Native American hitman named Crow who is hired by a rich Florida dude to go to Paradise, kidnap his runaway teenage daughter, and return her to him.

At first, Crow is all over the idea, at least until it becomes clear that his new boss actually wants him to kill the girl’s mother while he’s at it, and that he primarily wants his daughter back because he misses getting to sexually abuse her. This puts a damper on Crow’s enthusiasm, and he decides not to do the job after all. And then this ticks off the rich Florida dude, who then sends a posse of bad guys up to Paradise to track Crow down and kill him.

Stone is pulled into this story when Crow comes to him and openly tells him exactly what’s going on. The two form a plan to fix the mess, and voila, eventually they do. As plot concepts go, I’ve heard worse. But there were just too many elements of this story that made absolutely no sense for me to actually enjoy it all that much. First of all, Crow is a known bank robber who got away with ten million dollars the last time he was in Paradise, and Jesse is all “Hey, how’s it goin’, yo?” when he sees him? Sorry, but no. Second, Crow has ten million dollars stashed away and he’s taking jobs like this lame one from the rich Florida dude? Sorry, but no. Third, Crow is both so emotionless he kills on a whim, but so passionate about women that he refuses to ever hurt a lady? Sorry, but, huh?

We’re clearly supposed to fall madly in love with Crow (Stone’s female deputy even sleeps with him, despite the fact she’s happily married — don’t get me started on that one) and to respect and admire the fact he’s a brutal killer who would never, ever hurt a lady. Annnnnd, sorry, but no. In fact, Stone himself clearly admires and respects him, because even after Crow admits to killing a gang member the next town over, Jesse STILL doesn’t arrest him. Which, SORRY, but NO!

Additionally, I have to confess I’m really, really getting tired of all the subplot stuff about Stone’s ex-wife. That thread typically consumes significant chunks of every Stone novel and it never goes anywhere interesting or new. Their relationship never changes — it doesn’t improve, it doesn’t get worse. It’s just boring and stagnant. And I’ve never fully believed it, either. The emotion just isn’t there for me and it’s time for Parker to drop that ex-wife character and try to do something new with Jesse’s love life. I say it’s time to combine this series with the Sunny Randall one for good, get those two back into a relationship (there was a crossover novel a couple of years ago that was a lot of fun!), and run with it from there.

Um, other than all the bad stuff, though. . . great book! *cough*

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