It's often said that authors create protagonists that represent their own personality traits or characteristics in some form. If that's true, then Robert B. Parker's beloved Spenser probably mirrors the author's wit and unbridled machismo, while Jesse Stone is most certainly his sorrow.
Somber yet always inviting, Death in Paradise is the third in Parker's series featuring Stone, a former LAPD cop who was drummed out of California for drinking on the job and now serves as police chief of small-town Paradise, Massachusetts. This time Jesse not only continues his battle with alcoholism but must also solve the case of a murdered teenage girl found in a lake. The investigation leads Jesse deep into his own backyard, where the high-profile bestselling author Norman Shaw becomes a suspect -- as well as to Boston, where he must deal with mob figures Gino Fish and Vinnie Morris. Even off duty, Jesse has plenty of problems as he attempts to comb out his love life, from his consuming feelings for his ex-wife to his developing interest in the sexually charged principal of the dead girl's high school.
Parker emphasizes sentiment here as much as taut suspense and violence. He's always in excellent form, but he's never better than when dealing with small-town folk in all their complexity, as he delves into the secret lives hidden behind the Mr. and Mrs. Front Porch facade. This is the source of the poignancy and emotional resonance that will haul you into the story and refuse to let you go. We're drawn in, step by step, even when we know that something painful is looming around the next corner. With Death in Paradise, the bestselling author again proves that one of his greatest talents is his ability to fully realize the commonplace nature of remorse, loss, and passion. (Tom Piccirilli)