Night Passage

Robert B Parker

His name is Jesse Stone. He's left the LAPD in disgrace and found himself the new chief of police in Paradise, Massachusetts - a town that's a lot less idyllic than it sounds.

 

This exciting departure for "the reigning champion of the American tough-guy detective novel" (Entertainment Weekly) has landed him on the New York Times bestseller list once again... and thrilled readers and critics alike.

 

 

What Stone expects to be an easy job soon turns out to be anything but a “cake walk.” For one thing, he soon earns the enmity of local thug JoJo Genest when Genest’s wife Carole calls the police with a complaint that Genest violated a restraining order. When Stone puts Genest in his place, so to speak, in front of Carole, Genest considers this a personal affront. So he’s only too happy to make Stone’s life as miserable as possible and it’s not long before he starts to do just that.

Stone's an excellent cop and a formidable opponent, qualities that are damaging to his personal life. Stone trusts absolutely no-one, not even himself entirely. He keeps himself psychologically and emotionally distant from everyone. On one hand, that protects him as he goes up against the town leaders and JoJo Genest. On the other, he’s unable to reach out easily. There are other examples of irony in the novel too.

Stone’s character is also an important element in the novel. He is too heavy a drinker and he carries quite a lot of emotional baggage. So does his ex-wife Jenn. But Stone is refreshingly free of the wallowing and self-destructive behaviour that we see in so many novels. He is reflective and intelligent so he can see what his life has become. He admits his weaknesses and in the end, simply does the best that he can. On a personal level he fumbles his way through the rawness and pain of a recent divorce, as well as a “rebound” sort of relationship with Abby Taylor, the town’s legal advisor. And yet those difficulties don’t keep Stone mired; he gets on with his life.

Professionally, Stone is organised, methodical but not slow, and intuitive. The town leaders don’t expect him to be as perceptive as he turns out to be, either. Stone’s approach to solving the cases gives the novel a hint of the police procedural, but unlike some police procedurals, we know who the “bad guys” are fairly early on. The suspense in the novel doesn’t come from trying to find out whodunit or even whydunit. The reader is privy to those things. Rather, the suspense comes from the “cat and mouse” game between Stone and his enemies. And it’s not hard to cheer for Stone as he unravels the mystery. We can see, too, how he inspires loyalty in many of the people who work for him, and that loyalty pays off handsomely.

Although the novel isn’t what you’d call light, there is a thread of humour running through it, too.

Parker’s style is spare, efficient. Like his sleuth, Parker doesn’t waste words, and that’s part of what keeps the pace and flow of the story moving.

Night Passage features a damaged protagonist who makes no excuses, asks for no pity and simply tries his best to put his life together. The mystery makes sense and the plot doesn’t ask us to stretch our sense of disbelief. There’s also a solid sense of place and a touch of humour.

Review by Margot Kinberg, Confessions of a Mystery Writer

About Robert B Parker:

His most famous works were the novels about the private detective Spenser. ABC television network developed the television series Spenser: For Hire based on the character in the late 1980s; a series of TV movies based on the character were also produced. His works incorporate encyclopedic knowledge of the Boston metropolitan area. Parker was 77 when he died of a heart attack at his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts; discovered at his desk by his wife Joan, he had been working on a novel. The Spenser novels have been cited as reviving and changing the detective genre.

Robert B. Parker was one of contemporary fiction's most popular and respected detective writers. Best known for his portrayal of the tough but erudite investigator Spenser, Parker wrote over twenty-five novels over the course of his career, which began in 1973. Parker's acclaim and his thorough background in classic detective literature helped earn him the somewhat unusual commission of completing a Philip Marlowe novel that the great Raymond Chandler had left unfinished.

Night Passage begins with a major change in Jesse Stone’s life. He’s an L.A.P.D. Homicide cop who’s succeeded in drinking himself out of a job. Part of the reason for that is the breakup of his marriage, and his divorce is another impetus to make a complete break with the life he’s known. Stone gets an interview for the position of Chief of Police in the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts. Even though he’s drunk at the interview, Stone is surprisingly offered the job and he accepts it. He moves across the country hoping for a chance to put his life back together.