Since his fiancé Diana was murdered (Debt to Pay, 2016), former pro baseball player turned small town police chief Jesse Stone has spent much of his time pounding a baseball into his glove, staring at his poster of Ozzie Smith, and throwing down glass after glass of Johnnie Walker Black Label. When an elderly woman from one of Paradise’s leading families is found dead inside her ransacked house, Stone’s trusty sidekick, Officer Molly Crane, has to sober him up and drive him to the scene.
Soon, the stakes get higher when a leading suspect in the case is found shot to death in the town’s nature preserve. With the mayor, who has her sights set on higher office, looking for an excuse to fire him, Stone manages to pull himself together just enough to dig into the case.
Meanwhile, in a gated community in another part of town, a group of promoters are planning a birthday bash for Terry Jester, a musician who was as big as Bob Dylan in the heyday of folk rock, but who disappeared from public view decades ago. The rumor was he fell into a terminal funk after recording his greatest album, The Hangman’s Sonnet, only to have the master recording—and only copy—mysteriously vanish. But now, there are rumblings that it may have been found.
Dealing with the party-goers and the unwelcome swarm of press coverage the event and the recording are sure to bring to little Paradise is another headache Stone does not need.
Eventually, Stone begins to consider the possibility that the murders and the missing recording might actually be related.
Robert Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet is the fourth Jesse Stone novel Reed Farrel Coleman has written since taking over this series, and judging by the online fan reviews, he’s taking a little heat for not hewing closely to the character Parker created.
But that’s one of the things I admire about what Coleman is doing.
In Parker’s hands, there was little to distinguish Stone from Spenser, the Boston private eye and most beloved of Parker’s characters. Stone was just Spenser with women trouble and a drinking problem. Coleman has deepened the character, embellishing his back story, developing his friendships, and making him more human, complex, and memorable.
The result is another suspenseful, well-crafted story with intriguing characters and surprising plot twists.
I must admit that I saw the denouement coming, but that’s because I read it not just as a fan but as a fellow crime novelist. Coleman pulled the strands of the tale together the way I’d like to think I would have done it.
Robert Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet will be published by Putnam on Sept. 12, but it can be ordered in advance here.
And you can read more about Coleman and his work here.