5 stars out of 5
Welcome to the 16th installment of the Jesse Stone series! Although the books no longer are written by the late, great Robert B. Parker (he of Spenser fame), the legacy is being carried on admirably by Reed Farrel Coleman, who has been tagged to keep the series alive. And this is one of the best so far, IMHO.
The rather sleepy town of Paradise, Massachusetts, is about to get the mother of all wake-up calls: Plans are in the making for a mega-star-studded 75th birthday party for folk singer Terry Jester, who tore up the charts in his Bob Dylan years. He stepped out of the limelight when the master recording tape of his "The Hangman's Sonnet" album went missing some 40 years ago, and he's remained a recluse ever since. Paradise police chief Jesse Stone learns of the gala the morning that his deputy, "Suitcase" Simpson, is getting married, and he's none too thrilled about the ruckus and security nightmare such an ostentatious blow-out will cause (Woodstock comes to mind).
As if that weren't enough, the same morning an elderly resident is found dead in her home - apparently the victim of a home invasion gone wrong. The whole place is torn apart, suggesting that the culprits were looking for something. As Jesse and his team, including his faithful sidekick Molly Crane, get on the case, the mayor of Paradise and her PR flack get on Jesse's case. Mess up just once and you're gone, they threaten. As always, Jesse takes it in stride; after all, he's been there, done that. The threats do give him a tiny bit of pause, though; he came to Paradise after "screwing up" in Los Angeles, but he wonders, "...where does a man land after he screws up in Paradise?"
As the investigation progresses, Jesse begins to suspect that the old woman's murder may be connected to the missing tape. But how? The chase keeps Jesse guessing and following clues all the way to Boston, where he gets a little help from a private eye named Spenser (who way back when helped with the case of the missing tape, so Jesse wants to pick his brain). Readers should get a kick out of seeing two of Parker's popular characters come together in the same book; as a huge fan of both characters, I sure did.
In between trying to figure out what's going on, keep his job and avoid getting killed, Jesse is still trying to come to terms with the murder of his fiance, former FBI agent Diana Evans (that sad event happened in the previous book) and his penchant for drowning his sorrows in a bottle of Scotch. Throw it all together and you've got a very enjoyable book with interesting characters and a fast-moving plot.
All that said, I do offer an apology of sorts. I've got a ton of for-review books on my list courtesy of publishers (via NetGalley), and I try to tackle them according to closest release date. That doesn't happen for his one till Sept. 12, 2017, but I was so delighted to get it that I just couldn't wait. But alas, you will. Sorry 'bout that!
Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman (G.P. Putnam's Sons, September 2017); 368 pp.