Robert B. Parker’s Fool’s Paradise (Jesse Stone #19) by Mike Lupica

Embarrassingly, I totally had Robert B Parker mixed up with Richard Stark because of the latter’s Parker novels. I’m starting to wonder whether I do, in fact, read too many books. And, given this title, whether I watch too little TV, as I’ve definitely watched a wee bit of the Stone Cold adaptation but never had the time to get through an entire Jesse Stone movie. I’ve still watched enough to totally envision Tom Selleck as the lead of this engrossing 19th(!) installment of the long-running series tho.

Since I haven’t actually read any books by Mr Parker, my faulty recollection notwithstanding, I have no way of telling how true Mike Lupica is to the style of the author whose mantle he’s picked up. What I can safely say is that he writes a wildly entertaining small town police procedural that any crime novelist would be proud to call their own.

Jesse Stone is the police chief of Paradise, Massachusetts, and a recovering alcoholic. When a body is found near the lake, Jesse is surprised to discover that the victim was a man he’d just met at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting a town over. Paul, as the victim had introduced himself, is in death devoid of wallet, ID or cellphone, so it looks like this could have very well been a mugging gone awry. But a check with local cab companies reveals that Paul was last seen being dropped off at the gates of the wealthy Cain family’s estate quite a distance away.

Despite Jesse’s friendship with matriarch Lily, the Cains pretty much stonewall his inquiries, claiming to have never met Paul either on the night he was murdered or at any point beforehand. Jesse and his loyal deputies, Molly Crane and Suitcase Simpson, begin their painstaking detective work into Paul’s background but are soon distracted by seemingly personal attacks with very different MOs. Could these have anything to do with the mysterious Paul or has someone from the past shown up with a grudge against the Paradise PD?

I really enjoyed getting to know Jesse and his crew, and honestly didn’t feel at all confused by any of the complicated interpersonal relationships inherent in reading the latest in a 19-book series. Mr Lupica does a terrific job of keeping things accessible for the new reader while also writing a fine mystery that incorporates tons of characters series fans will easily recognize, including the luminous Sunny Randall. Given how even I, a relative newcomer, enjoyed the callbacks to prior events from the series, I can only imagine the delight of long-time readers.

I’m definitely putting the Jesse Stone series on my To-Read list despite my own worries about too much reading. One can never enjoy too many solid mystery novels, I believe. Besides, there’s no way I’m ever mistaking Jesse for Parker, entertaining as both protagonists can be! I’m only glad I finally had the chance to learn to differentiate between the two and between their authors.

Robert B. Parker’s Fool’s Paradise by Mike Lupica is out today from Putnam Books, and is available at all good booksellers.

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