With 70 books to his credit, masterful crime writer Robert B. Parker passed away in 2010. It might have seemed, for a few moments anyway, that classic detective characters like Boston PI Spencer, tough investigator Sunny Randall and New England small town police chief Jesse Stone might have died with him, along with the leads of other Parker series.
Then the Parker estate picked crime writer Ace Atkins to continue the Spencer series and Michael Brandman, a writer and producer who worked with Parker on adapting the Jesse Stone stories into a successful series of appropriately somber TV movies, was tapped to continue Stone’s adventures.
Brandman’s second Stone book – titled, somewhat unwieldingly, “Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice,” takes us back to the small town of Paradise and not one, not two, but three storylines for Stone to unravel.
Stone, a recovering alcoholic and former LA cop, has settled into his job as small-town police chief but isn’t any less anti-authoritarian. Stone clashes with town council members as well as other law enforcement officials on a couple of the matters he faces here. Paradise is host to a movie production company and its troubled lead actress, Marisol, who is being menaced by her estranged husband; there are also complaints by town residents that their water bills are mysteriously high; and Stone butts heads with a rich family and their privileged teenage daughter.
Brandman is a writer gifted at telling his tale in Parker’s voice, and he does so quite well here. One of the plotlines feels kind of abrupt and another – Stone’s response to the troubled teen – is familiar to fans of Spencer, who showed the value of tough love to a couple of errant young people in that series.
As with all of Parker’s creations, the heroes are more than capable – so much so that there’s very little credible threat to their safety or their plans.
But Brandman, like Atkins, knows what Parker fans want: A strong but soft-spoken hero who can handle any number of tough guys and guys who think they’re tough.
In Brandman’s hands, I’m hoping Jesse Stone will be around for years to come.