Robert B. Parker was the author of more than fifty books and regrettably, I did not pick up a single one until Jesse Stone (the police chief in Parker’s nine book Stone series) appeared in the form of Tom Selleck in a movie of the week titled, "Stone Cold." My bad.
In both book and movie, Stone, formerly an L.A. cop, is now the police chief of Paradise, a seaside Massachusetts town. He has baggage that many readers have sympathized with over the years: failed marriage, complicated relationship with the ex-wife, issues with drinking, and an inability to escape from himself in a town where everybody knows your name.
And, in this town, some nasty crimes are taking place…not only a spree of seemingly random murders, but also a teenage rape. Stone’s handling of both cases is intensely personal; he wants to understand the suspects, but also needs to help and avenge the victims. He sometimes steps outside the law to do that when the law doesn’t quite deliver the justice deserved.
Luckily for Parker fans, the TV movie script does not stray far from the crisp dialogue that characterizes the book. Stone is a man of few words until it’s necessary to expand his generally monosyllabic responses. His thoughts, however, are deeper and richer, and the feeling that Selleck expresses by a glance or a frown on the small screen, Parker describes in full measure on the printed page.
There is a hint at discord with the town council, but in “Stone Cold,” it’s not overplayed. The council members want information about ongoing cases, but Stone doesn’t feel it necessary to share and the scene is set for more problems in future books. Crime waves make people fearful about living normal lives and random killings are even more frightening, so it would be normal for a mayor and council to be actively concerned and want to reassure the townsfolk that it’s safe to go out at night. It’s just that Stone knows better than to let the council control the department decisions.
An easy connection exists between Stone, Molly, and Suit, the local law enforcement team. They protect each other and play the role of a family that Stone doesn’t have. To get through some of the deeper issues, he sees a shrink by the name of Dix, who at times is also a sounding board when Stone wants a psychological profile done of a suspect. The interplay of the principal characters is so realistically portrayed that while “Stone Cold” is a stand-alone book, it would be interesting to go back to the beginning of the series to see how these relationships began and subsequently developed.
Sadly, Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010 at the age of 77, discovered by his wife at his desk, having been in the midst of writing a novel. In addition to the seven TV movies inspired by the Stone series, there was a weekly TV show, “Spenser for Hire,” based on the character of the same name in other Parker books. The Parker estate has decided to continue the hugely successful work of the ‘dean of American crime fiction’ with new Stone and Spenser books written by people who worked closely with him in TV and film.
Visit www.robertbparker.net to learn more about the man, his books, and his legacy.