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Stone Cold by Robert B. Parker

 

Rating: ēēē (Recommended)

 

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Serial

Itís probably Robert B. Parkerís mastery of dialogue that brings me back to his mysteries whenever I want to take an escape break in my reading. In between his Spenser novels, Parker has introduced a new detective, Jesse Stone. The fourth book in this series, Stone Cold, reveals Parkerís skills. Stone has matured as a nuanced character, and readers become more confident that Stoneís behavior is always consistent with his personality. Serial killers are on the rampage in suburban Paradise, to such a degree that on a per capita basis, the town may have become the murder capital of America. Aside from that excess, the rest of the book maintains Parkerís cool balance of plot development and character revelation. Hereís an excerpt of Chapter 12 (pp. 46-49):

Kenneth Eisley's former wife had resurrected her maiden name, which was Erickson. She worked as a corporate trainer at a company called Prometheus Plus, which was located in an office park in Woburn, and Jesse talked to her there, sitting in a chair made of silver tubing across from her desk. The desk too was made of silver tubing, with a glass top.

"Do you have any idea why someone might kill your former husband?" Jesse said.

Christine Erickson laughed briefly and without amusement.

"Other than for being a jerk?" she said.

"Was he enough of a jerk to get himself shot?"

"Not that kind of jerk," she said. "He was a harmless jerk."

"Such as?" Jesse said.

"He thought it was important, I mean he actually thought it was seriously important, who won the Super Bowl."

"Everybody knows it's the World Series that matters," Jesse said.

Christine looked blankly at Jesse for a moment. Jesse smiled. Her demeanor was calm enough, Jesse noticed, but her movements seemed tight and angular.

"Oh," she said. "You're kidding."

"More or less," Jesse said. "What else was annoying about him?"

Christine was wearing a dark maroon pantsuit with a white blouse and short cordovan boots with pointy toes and heels a little too high to be sensible. She was slim and good-looking, with auburn hair and oval wire-rimmed glasses. Behind the glasses, her eyes were greenish.

"He believed the ads on television," she said without hesitation.

She's talked about his faults before, Jesse thought.

"He thinks what matters is looking good, knowing the right people, driving the right car, owning the right dog. . . .Oh God, what about Goldie?"

"He's healthy," Jesse said. "Dog officer has him."

"Whatís going to happen to him?"

"I was hoping you'd take him," Jesse said.

"Me. God no. I can't. I work twelve hours a day."

Jesse nodded.

"Can you find him a home?" Christine said.

Jesse nodded.

"You think I should take him," Christine said. "don't you?"

"I do," Jesse said.

"I can't have him home alone all day, peeing on my rugs."

Jesse nodded.

"Well, I can't," Christine said.

" 'Course not," Jesse said.

"Hell, he was never my dog. Kenny just bought him because he thought they'd look good running on the beach together."

"They do that often?"

"Five nights a week," she said. "Kenny was always obsessing about his weight."

"Regular?"

"Kenny? Oh, God, yes, he was a schedule freak. Same time for everything. Always." Suddenly she smiled a thin smile. "I mean everything."

"Good to know," Jesse said. "Do you have any idea who would want him dead?"

"Oh," she said, "God no."

"Does he pay you alimony?"

"No. I got my house in lieu of alimony. Hell, I make more than he does anyway."

"Where were you last Thursday night?" Jesse said.

"Me?"

"Have to ask," Jesse said.

She glanced at her date book, then looked up and met his gaze for a moment. He could see her thinking.

She said, "I was in bed with Neil Ames."

"All night?"

"We were together from five-thirty in the afternoon until nine A.M. the next morning."

"I'll need to verify it," Jesse said. "Where do I find Mr. Ames?"

"Two doors down," she said. "He's the marketing director."

"Does he think the Super Bowl matters?" Jesse said.

"No."

"What does he think matters?"

"Money."

"No fool, he," Jesse said. "Can you tell me anything at all that might shed light on Kenneth Eisley's death?"

"Have you tried at work?" she said. "Maybe he lost somebody's life savings."

"As we speak," Jesse said. "Any other thoughts?"

"No."

Jesse took a card out of his shirt pocket and handed it to Christine.

"Anything occurs," he said, "call me."

"Even if itís not about the case?"

"Sure," Jesse said. "Maybe we can schedule something."

Again the tight smile. Jesse smiled back. Then he went down the hall to talk with the marketing director.

The maturing of Jesse Stone proves that Parkerís creation of Spenser wasnít a once in a career event. Stone Cold reveals more of Stone and Parker, to the delight of readers.

Steve Hopkins, November 24, 2003

 

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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the December 2003 issue of Executive Times

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