Executive Times






2006 Book Reviews


Sea Change by Robert B. Parker








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Robert B. Parker offers Sea Change as the fifth Jesse Stone novel. The plot centers around police chief Stone solving a murder that seemed to involve loveless sex capades. Parker continues to develop Stone in this novel, to the pleasure of fans. The plot moves in unexpected and interesting ways, and as usual, Parker’s dialogue is witty and effective. The gloomy sex crimes and Stone’s level headed and careful investigation provide interesting balance and contrast in Sea Change. Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 4, pp. 18-24:


Jesse was leaning on the front desk in Par­adise Police Headquarters reading the ME’s report on the floater. Molly was working the phones. It was only 8:40 in the morning and the phones were quiet.

“You think she came off one of the yachts?” Molly said. Jesse smiled. Molly always looked too small for the gun belt. In fact there wasn’t all that much that Molly was too small for. She was dark-haired and cute, full of curiosity and absolute resolve.

“Only if they got here before Race Week,” Jesse said. “ME says she’s been in the water awhile.”

“Any signs of trauma?”

“Nope, but it’s pretty hard to tell. Crab, ah, markings in­dicate she was probably on the bottom, which might sug­gest she was weighted, and decomposition, tidal movement, whatever, pulled her loose and sent her up. Or she could just have been in shallow water.”

“Could be lobster markings,” Molly said.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” Jesse said. “Next time I’m ordering dinner at the Gray Gull.”

He heard himself say Gray Gull the way locals did, as if it were one word, with the stress on gray, not gull. I been here awhile, Jesse thought. I’m beginning to be local.

“It couldn’t be gulls?” Molly said.


“How do they know?”

“They know,” Jesse said. “There’s evidence of blunt trauma on her body, but nothing that couldn’t have come from being rolled against rocks by the surf.”

“Oh. Well if she did come off a yacht, it’s strange no one has reported her missing.”

“No one seems to have reported her missing, yacht or no yacht,” Jesse said.

“We got five missing persons in the Northeast that could be her,” Molly said. “Except none of the dental IDs match.”

Jesse wore blue jeans and sneakers and a short-sleeved white police chief shirt, with the badge pinned to the shirt pocket. He carried the snub-nosed .38 that he’d brought with him from L.A. The issue gun, a nine-millimeter semiauto­matic, she knew, was in the right-hand bottom drawer of his desk. His hair was cut short. He was tanned, and, Molly always noticed this about him, while he wasn’t a particu­larly big man he seemed very strong, as if his center were muscular.

The phone rang and Molly took it and said, “Yes ma’am. We’ll have someone check right on it.” She wrote nothing down, and when she hung up she took no further action.

“Mrs. Billups?” Jesse said.

Molly nodded.

“Says there’s a man she doesn’t recognize walking past her house. He looks sinister.”

“How many is that so far this month?”

“Four,” Molly said. “And this year?”

“Oh God,” Molly said, “infinity.”

“Mrs. Billups hasn’t got much else to occupy her,” Jesse said. “Who’s on patrol?”


“Have him drive slowly past her house,” Jesse said. “There’s nothing there, Jesse.”

“I know, and you know. But Mrs. Billups doesn’t know.”

“You are awful tenderhearted,” Molly said, “for a guy who banged Carl Radborn in the balls with a stick.”

“She’ll peek out the window when she sees the patrol car,” Jesse said. “Have Suit give her a little wave. Maybe a thumbs-up.”

Molly shook her head in slow disapproval, but she turned as she did so, and called Simpson on the radio.

“Go do another Mrs. Billups drive-by,” she said. “Oh shit, Molly, that old biddy sees things every day.” Jesse leaned into the microphone.

He said, “Serve and protect, Suit.”

There was silence for a minute, then Simpson said, “Aye, aye, skipper.”

Jesse went into the squad room in back and got two cof­fees and brought one in for Molly.

“If you’re missing from a town or a city, people might not notice right away,” Jesse said. “But a yacht?”

“So she’s probably not off one of the yachts.”

“Or, if she is, people don’t wish it known,” Jesse said.

Which would mean that someone murdered her.

“Or that someone doesn’t want anyone to know she was on the yacht.”

Molly nodded.

“Like somebody else’s wife,” she said.

“Or a hooker, or a juror in a pending civil trial, or some­thing neither of us can think of.”

“There’s nothing neither of us can think of,” Molly said.

“Except who the floater is.’, “ME can’t give you anything?” “Sure they can,” Jesse said. He looked at the ME’s initial report.

“Floater was about thirty-five. Alive she was about five-seven, probably weighed a hundred and thirty pounds. Brown eyes, natural brunette. She was wearing an expensive dress and silk underwear when she died. She had been drinking. She showed traces of cocaine, and she was a smoker. Her breasts had been enhanced. She was alive when she went in the water. She was not a virgin.”

“No kidding.”

“Just running down the list, Moll,” Jesse said. “She had never had children.”

“We could start checking with plastic surgeons,” Molly said. “See if any enhancement patients are missing.”

“If it were done by a plastic surgeon,” Jesse said. “Any MD can do this kind of surgery.”

“But most intelligent people wouldn’t go to an allergist or somebody,” Molly said. “Would you?”

“For breast enhancement?” Jesse said.

“You know what I mean,” Molly said.

Another call came in. Molly answered and listened and wrote down an address.

“Okay, Mr. Bradley,” she said. “I’ll have an officer there in a few minutes. Call back if there’s any problem. And stay away from the animal.”

“Rabid animal?” Jesse said.

“Skunk. Guy working on a roof up on Sterling Circle says it’s staggering and walking in circles in the street. He was on his cell phone.”

“Suit should have saved Mrs. Billups by now. Have him go up and shoot the skunk.”

“What if it’s not really rabid?” Molly said.

“Family can sue us.”

Molly called Simpson. When she was through she turned back to Jesse.

“Do people like urologists really do plastic surgery?”

“They may legally do so,” Jesse said. “Some people don’t know one doctor from another. In the white coat they all look the same.”

“A woman wearing silk underwear would know,” Molly said.

Jesse grinned.

“Depends who bought the underwear,” he said.

“Still, odds are it would be a plastic surgeon. I can make some calls.”

“Sure,” Jesse said. “If we’re lucky, maybe she did them around here.”

“Of course,” Molly said. “She could have driven here from Grand Junction, Colorado, and parked on the Neck some­place and jumped in.”

“Except we haven’t found any abandoned vehicles,” Jesse said.

“Or someone was with her and threw her in and drove away.”

“Or she’s a space alien,” Jesse said.

“Or, just shut up,” Molly said.

“I am the chief law enforcement officer of Paradise, Mas­sachusetts,” Jesse said. “And your chief. Surely you can be more respectful than that.”

 “Of course,” Molly said. “I’m sorry . . . shut up, sir.”

“Thank you.”

“Are they all through with her?” Molly said.

“The coroner? No, this is a preliminary report. They’re still poking around.”

Ick,” Molly said.

“Cops don’t say ‘ick.”

Molly laughed and leaned over the desk and kissed Jesse on the forehead.

“Do cops do that?” Molly said.

“Oh yeah,” Jesse said, “most of them.”

The phone rang again and Molly answered, “Paradise Po­lice,” while Jesse took the coroner’s report back to his office.


The excerpt shows through the relationship between Jesse and Molly what an interesting boss Stone is. Sea Change has topical material that is tawdry, but writing that entertains, and characters that are worth a reader’s time.


Steve Hopkins, March 23, 2006



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the April 2006 issue of Executive Times


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