The Barnes & Noble Review
Trouble in Paradise is the best Parker in some time, not so much because of story (which is not exactly unfamiliar) but because of storytelling. Parker's into a different rhythm here pitting his new hero, police chief Jesse Stone, against ex-con Jimmy Macklin, who is planning to invade a wealthy New England community, thereby endangering not only the fortunes of the people who live there but their lives as well.
While Stone still occasionally ruminates on his drinking problem and his crushing divorce, he is a lot more active here than in his debut, Night Passage. In fact, one might argue that this is more of a straight action novel told as only Parker could tell it, with sociological asides (some of his comments on the rich would undoubtedly please F. Scott Fitzgerald), sly glimpses of human monsters (the pecking order of bad guys), and the fascinating planning that goes into pulling off a caper of this magnitude.
The cinematic intercutting works beautifully and sets up the final confrontation with a nice inevitability. And since Parker is never without some second-act surprises, there are enough plot twists in the middle to keep you slapping those pages back. Parker's got the knack, and it seems he's never going to lose it.
The rich man's community is set up well, too. Although Parker doesn't seem crazy about rich folk in general, they are sketched honestly. He resists cheap shots and parody, which a number of recent bestsellers have indulged in too readily. Yes, there are a lot of nasty rich people, but I could name you a longlistof rather nasty poor people, too.
One has the sense that Parker needed Jesse Stone not so much for his career which is running along quite nicely, thank you but to keep himself from suffering series-itis. When you sit at the writing machine everyday, you get tired of using the same muscles. Although one may find similarities between Spenser and Stone, the series are sufficiently different to please both reader and Parker alike. I'd forgotten, for instance, how deft his third-person can be, especially in describing action. The opening of Wilderness, for example, is extraordinary in the simple way it sets up and foreshadows everything that will follow. One sees this again in his mainstream novel All Our Yesterdays, where he uses short chapters in the way silent-film directors used fade-ups and fade-downs.
Trouble in Paradise is one of those books that both men and women will like. Stone is a more believable character (for me) than Spenser, and the people he meets (good and bad) are more familiar to me than the typical cast of a Spenser novel. I think Parker's really on to something with these Stone books. These are damned exciting books, and Stone is a memorable and likable hero.
Oh, yes and there's a character named Suitcase Simpson. Now how can you dislike a book with a guy named Suitcase?
Ed Gorman's latest novels include Cold Blue Midnight, now available in paperback, Harlot's Moon and Black River Falls, the latter of which "proves Gorman's mastery of the pure suspense novel," says Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. ABC-TV has optioned the novel as a movie. He is also the editor of Mystery Scene Magazine, which Stephen King calls "indispensable" for mystery readers.
Read an Excerpt
When he was sleepless, which was less often than it used to be, Jesse Stone would get into the black Explorer he'd driven from L.A. and cruise around Paradise, Massachusetts, where he was chief of police. Nights like tonight, with the rain slanting down through the dark, and the streets shiny in the headlights, were the ones Jesse liked best. It would have been nice, Jesse thought, on a night like this, to have been a town marshal somewhere in the old west, where he could have relaxed into the saddle under his oilskin slicker with his hat yanked down over his eyes and let the horse find its own direction. He drove slowly past the town common with its white colonial meetinghouse on which the rain had fallen for two hundred years. The blue glare of the mercury street lamps diffused by the rain was restrained and opalescent. Except for the headlights of the Explorer, there were no other lights in this part of town. The neat houses with large lawns around the common were still and unlit. Nothing moved. The town library was blank. The high school stood inert, its red brick glistening with rain, its black windows implacable in the arc of headlights as Jesse turned into the parking lot.
He stopped the car for a moment and flicked on the high beams. The headlights rested on the baseball diamond: the rusting screen of the backstop, the slab of rubber on the pitcher's mound, bowed slightly, the hollow in front of it where the high school kids lunged off the rubber, trying to pitch off leg drive like Nolan Ryan. When he'd been in the minors, he could play the deepest short in the league because he hadthe big arm and could make the throw from the hole. Gave him range. Gave him more time. He could run. He had good hands. He could hit enough for a middle infielder. But it was the arm. Bigger arm than Rick Burleson, they used to tell him. Ticket to the show. Jesse rubbed his right shoulder as he looked at the baseball field. He remembered when he hurt it, at the start of a double play. It had been a clean take out. And it ended his career....
Jesse let the car slide forward and turned and went down Main Street toward the water. He pulled off the street into the empty parking lot at Paradise Beach. He let the motor idle. The rain intensified the sea smell. In the headlights the surf came in and curled and crested and broke, the black ocean making the hard rain seem trivial. A thermos of piña coladas would be nice to drink sitting here, and maybe some music. He thought about Jenn. She had an infinite capacity for romance. If she were here, she would lean back with her eyes closed and talk with him and listen to him and let herself feel the romance of the late night and the rain and the sound of the ocean. And let him share it with her. Sometimes he thought he missed that more than anything else in the marriage. Ten years in L.A. Homicide hadn't extinguished his sense of romantic possibility. It had demonstrated beyond argument that romance was not at all likely. But in showing its evanescence, experience had made Jesse more certain that the possibility of romance was the final stay against confusion. Maybe for Jenn too. Long after the divorce, they were still connected. When she heard last year that he was in trouble, she'd come east. It wasn't the kind of trouble she could help with. She would have known that. She had come, simply, he supposed, when he allowed himself to think about it, to be there. And she was still here, living here. And what the hell were they going to do now? He put the car in drive and turned slowly out of the parking lot and drove along the beachfront toward downtown. Neither booze nor his ex-wife were good for him, and he shouldn't spend too much time thinking of them.
The marquee of the movie theater was unlit. The stores were dark. The street lights cycled through the red, yellow, green changes unobserved. He went up Indian Hill and into Hawthorne Park. He parked very near the edge of the high ground and shut off the headlights and let the car idle again while he looked out over the harbor. To his left the harbor emptied into the open ocean. To his right the harbor dead-ended at the causeway that ran from Paradise to Paradise Neck. The neck was straight across the harbor, a low dark form with a lighthouse on the north point. Just inside the lighthouse point, a hundred yards off shore, crossing the T of the point at a slant, was Stiles Island. The near end of it shielded the harbor mouth, the far end jutted beyond the point into the open sea. In the channel, between the island and the neck, where the land pressed the water on either side, Jesse knew that the ocean currents seethed dangerously, and the water was never still. But from here, there was no hint of it. The calm sweep of the lighthouse just touched the expensive rooftops of the carefully spaced houses, and ran the full length of the barrel-arched bridge that connected it to the neck. The rest was darkness.
Jesse sat for a long time in the darkness looking at the ocean and the rain. The digital clock on the dash read 4:23. In clear weather the eastern sky would be pale by now and in another half hour or so, this time of year, it would be light. Jesse turned on the headlights and backed the car up and headed back down the hill to shower and change and put on his badge.
By the time was out of jail for a week, he had acquired a brown Mercedes sedan, which he stole from the Alewife Station parking garage, and a 9-mm semi-automatic pistol that he got from a guy he'd done time with named Desmond. Macklin used the nine to knock over a liquor store near Wellington Circle. With the money from the liquor store, he paid Desmond's cousin Chick, who worked at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, to fix up a registration in the name of Harry Smith and scam a legitimate license plate. He had the car painted British racing green. Then he bought a fifth of Belvedere vodka and a bottle of Stock vermouth and drove over to see Faye.
As soon as he walked in the apartment, she slipped out of the bathrobe she was wearing and in five minutes they were making love. When it was over, Faye got up and made them each a martini and brought the drinks back to bed.
"Saved that up for a year and a half," Macklin said.
"I could tell," Faye said.
They were propped among the pink and lavender pillows on Faye's king-sized bed with the martinis next to Macklin's pistol on the bedside table. The bedroom walls were lavender, and the ceiling was mirrored. The condominium was in the old Charlestown Navy Yard, and through the second floor windows they could see the Boston skyline across the harbor.
"You too?" Macklin said.
"Me too what?" Faye said.
She had a rose tattooed at the top of her right thigh.
"You been saving it for a year and a half?"
"Of course," she said.
Macklin drank some of his martini. The sheets on Faye's bed were lavender.
"Nobody," Faye said.
Staring up at the mirrored ceiling, she liked the way they looked. He was slim and smooth. He was so blond that his hair was nearly white. He looked a little pale now, but she knew he'd get his tan back. She loved the contrast of his white-blond hair and his tan skin. She examined herself carefully. Boobs still good. Legs still good. They ought to be. Forty-five minutes every day on the goddamned StairMaster. She rolled onto her side, and looked at her butt. Tight. StairMaster does it again.
"Checking out the equipment?" Macklin said.
"Seems to be working okay," Macklin said.
"How about yours?" she said.
They finished their martinis in silence.
"What are we going to do?" Faye said.
"The same thing mostly," Macklin said, "but I was thinking maybe we could try it in the chair."
Faye giggled again. "I don't mean that," she said. "I mean what are we going to do, you know, like with our life?"
Macklin smiled. He sat up higher in the bed and poured another martini for himself and one for Faye.
"Well, tomorrow," Macklin said, "we're going up to Paradise and look at real estate on Stiles Island."
"What's Stiles Island?"
"Island in Paradise Harbor. It's connected to the rest of the town by a little bridge. Bridge is gated and there's a guard shack and a private security patrol. Everybody lives there is rich. They got a branch bank out there just for them."
"How do you know about this place?"
"Guy I was in jail with, Lester Lang, kept talking about it, called it the mother lode."
"You ever seen it?"
"We going to buy property out there?" Faye said.
"So why we going up there to look at real estate?"
"We're scoping the place."
"For the mother of all stickups," Macklin said.
Faye put her head against his shoulder and laughed. "I'll drink to that," she said, touching the rim of her glass to the rim of his.