Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bookmarks – Stranger in Paradise

I had read a couple other books in the late Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series, but I clearly have missed a few things, such as Stone’s little affair with Sunny Randall (a character from another series). Some other events mentioned in Stranger in Paradise were news to me. In his Spenser stories, Parker does a pretty good job of giving the reader just enough information so one can keep up, but not so much as to drag down the narrative. I didn’t feel lost here, but since the character is what I am interested in, these little jolts did make me feel as if I’d been out of town too long. Perhaps I have.

Stranger in Paradise includes a character from one of the books I had read before, a killer named Crow. He has returned to Paradise to retrieve the teenage daughter of a Florida gangster. But when Crow refuses to kill the mother (he has a particular fondness for women that is never explained), a series of events unfolds that includes a gang of thugs the teen girl has taken up with, and a self-righteous woman bent on keeping a group of underprivileged children from coming into Paradise for an education.

There is Parker’s trademark dialogue, right out of the Raymond Chandler handbook, and Stone’s goofy and complicated relationship with Jenn (which is much like the relationship between Spenser and Susan). The story is what Parker fans have come to expect. Nothing seems new here, but it nevertheless enjoyable. Stranger in Paradise is a well-paced escape.

We do have an unbelievable climax that involves a shootout with two groups of bad guys providing Stone and Crow what they want (mostly). This and the rather neatly tied ending may seem far-fetched, but if you get that far in the story, you probably won’t mind.

NOTE: Much to my shame for not knowing earlier, I found out as I was finishing this review that Mr. Parker died of a heart attack in January. A nice obituary which also discusses similarities between Parker and his best known creation can be found here.

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