Thursday, May 05, 2011

Strong, silent typecast

Title: Night Passage
Author: Robert B. Parker

Ever see one of those CBS mystery movies with Tom Selleck as Police Chief Jesse Stone? Yeah, me either. Maybe part of one, a very long time ago, but that was it. And it's too bad, because Tom Selleck is pretty fantastic, and not just because the man knows how to wear a Hawaiian shirt. However, I'd seen enough commercials for the movies that while reading this book (the first of many Jesse Stone stories), I always pictured the protagonist as portrayed by Selleck, even though there's about thirty years difference between them. That's ok. Selleck is ageless.

Stone starts in LA at the bottom of a deep hole: his wife cheated on and left him, which led to him drinking way too much and often on the job (as an LAPD homicide detective), which got him kicked off the force. Then, somehow, things get worse. When he looks for a law enforcement job Anywhere But LA, he eventually interviews for a job as Chief of Police in Paradise, Massachusetts while completely blotto. He gets the job because Hasty Hathaway, the man running Paradise doesn't want a good cop at the helm of his force; he wants someone he can control. That's why he fired the last chief when he discovered what Hasty was doing.

On the surface, Paradise is a sleepy little New England seaside town. This surface is mere angstroms thick. Underneath is corruption, murder, money laundering, a nutty militia group, and a local psychopath who has an early confrontation with Jesse which leads to an eerie dance between the two for the rest of the book. By the way, it seems that the only people with whom the good citizens of Paradise do not have sex are their own spouses. Especially Hasty's wife. Wow.

Lately I've wondered a lot about the definition of a "mystery" novel. I usually think those are the stories in which enough information is provided for a clever reader to solve the mystery themselves. However, it often seems as though books labeled "mystery" just give the reader a ride: the story is fed out, and you just accept whatever you are handed, then the ending is revealed. There's never any question of who's guilty in Night Passage, but it's fun to watch Jesse make all the connections. Especially if you picture him with a thick mustache.

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posted by reyn at 10:48 AM


Anonymous FH ambassador Asia-Pacific said...

I see. You should certainly check out the as it's about psychopaths- local psychopaths, international psychopaths, psychopaths who don't murder, all that. With the really interesting film editing to great music you will not be disappointed.

5/08/2011 7:40 AM  

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