Executive Times






2008 Book Reviews


Stranger in Paradise by Robert B. Parker








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Robert Parker’s seventh novel featuring Jesse Stone is titled Stranger in Paradise. The stranger in the title, as well as the image on the cover, refers to Wilson Crow Cromartie, a killer who eluded Stone a decade earlier. Crow was hired to kill one person and kidnap another. Instead, Crow and Stone become uneasy allies, each trying to ensure that his own form of justice is achieved. Here’s an excerpt, all of Chapter 6, pp. 20-22:


Jesse poured himself his first drink of the evening. The scotch whiskey looked silky as it slid over the ice. He added soda, waited for the bubbles to subside, then stirred the ice around with a fingertip. Jenn always used to say he should use a spoon, but he liked to stir it the way he did. He took a drink, felt it ease into him. He looked at his picture of Ozzie Smith on the wall over the bar. He wondered if Ozzie drank. Probably not, probably hard to do that backflip if you were a boozer. He raised his glass at the picture.

"I made the show, I'd be doing backflips, too," he said aloud. His voice sounded odd, as it always did, in the empty room. If he hadn't hurt his shoulder he might have made the show. He sipped again. If he didn't drink he might be with Jenn. If Jenn didn't try to fuck her way to fulfillment. If he were smarter he'd have let Jenn go and taken up with Sunny Randall. If Sunny wasn't preoccupied with her ex-husband. If …

Jesse walked to the French doors that looked out over his little balcony to the harbor. He had no illusions about Crow. Whatever his reasons for letting the women go ten years ago, whatever his reasons for protecting Marcy, if he really had, Jesse knew that had he needed to, Crow would have killed them all.

Jesse's drink was gone. He walked back to the bar and filled his glass with ice. He poured the caramel-colored whiskey over the ice and added the soda. He stirred it, and walked back to the French doors.

But Molly was sort of right. Jesse didn't know if he and Crow were alike. But there was something about Crow that clicked in Jesse. Crow was so entirely Crow. He belonged so totally to who and what he was. Crow probably enjoyed a drink. Probably had no problem stopping after one or two. Probably didn't get mad. Probably didn't hate. Probably didn't fear. Jesse took an­other drink and stared at the darkening harbor.... Probably didn't love, either.

"He's not missing much," Jesse said to no one.

Even saying it, Jesse knew it wasn't quite true. If he didn't love Jenn, would he be happier? He wouldn't be as unhappy. But was that the same? What would replace the sense of momentous ad­venture that he felt when he thought of her, which was nearly always?

Jesse made another drink. The evening had settled and the harbor was dark. There was little to look at through the French doors. After he made his drink, Jesse stayed at the bar.

In a sense, loving Jenn wasn't even about Jenn. It was about who he was by being in love with her. So why not just let her do whatever she wanted to and love her anyway. What did he care how many men she banged? Let her go about her business and I go about mine and what difference does it make? He heard a low animal sound in the room. It was, he realized, him, and it had come without volition. He looked at his picture of Ozzie and shrugged. Okay, so it makes a difference. Was it more about him than about her? Did he hang in there because he would miss the high drama? He knew he loved her. He knew she loved him. He knew they couldn't find a way to make it work.

"Yet," he said, and drank some more.


As noted in the excerpt, Stone remains troubled, especially about his ex-wife Jenn. In Stranger in Paradise, Parker expands his character development of Stone by showing his ability to overcome what comes more natural to him, working alone with resolution, to partnering with an unusual ally. This is another easy-going, entertaining novel that brings just the right dose of pleasure.


Steve Hopkins, May 15, 2008



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The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the June 2008 issue of Executive Times


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