Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Death in Paradise (2006)

I've been a fan of Robert B. Parker's Spenser since Robert Urich played the detective in the 1980s TV show. I began reading Valediction and realized, though the show was good, it paled in comparison to Parker's novel. I eagerly anticipated each March or April for the next release. When I was an MP and had just returned stateside from Johnston Island in 1997, the first thing I did (ok, maybe second or third) was run to Borders for the latest Spenser book. To my surprise, I found Parker had introduced a new series and a new character, Jesse Stone; and two chapters into Night Passage I was hooked.

When we first meet Jesse, he’s been sacked from the LAPD for drinking on duty. He leaves LA for an interview in the small town of Paradise, Massachusetts and, to even his surprise, gets the job. When the police chief he replaced turns up dead, Jesse becomes aware that he's been hired as a stooge by a corrupt town board. The Stone character, a deeply troubled man who slowly battles his demons as the series progresses, is a marked departure for Parker. As of this date, there are seven novels.

Tom Selleck plays the part of Jesse Stone in the made-for TV movies. Even though the character in the novels is in his late thirties, the sixty-something Selleck skillfully plays the part, making the age difference hardly noticeable (Parker himself said that Selleck nails the part). Considering both Magnum P.I. and Parker were big influences on me as a teenager, it's great to see these two come together.

I recently finished watching Death in Paradise which is the third movie in the series. The body of a teenage girl is found floating in a local lake. The Paradise PD uncovers that the previously straight-A student's life fell apart after moving into town and attending a new school. The investigation takes a turn when sordid connections between a prominent writer/school benefactor and the Boston mob are revealed. In addition, Chief Stone and his officers are left reeling when a case of domestic violence becomes deadly.

I enjoyed everything about this movie and the series right down to the fine acting of Joe the Dog, who plays Reggie, Stone’s golden retriever; seriously, this puppy dog chews up the scenes with the best of them. These movies may take their time unfolding but the quiet ambience is never dull. I’m sure if you give them a chance, you will also enjoy them.

Stone Cold (20 February 2005)
Jesse Stone: Night Passage (15 January 2006) a prequel to Stone Cold
Jesse Stone: Death In Paradise (30 April 2006)
Jesse Stone: Sea Change (22 May 2007)
Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (2008) written by Parker, but not based on an existing novel


Clare2e said...

I haven't seen any of these actually, but you're making me want to hunt them down on the DVR.

David Cranmer said...

Clare, I hope you do check them out. It's definitely laid-back storytelling but quite enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

Watched "Thin Ice" last night - equally good, stands up well with the rest of the series. Sad, sad story, loved Reggie (Joe the dog) riding with Jesse on the bus. Such an eloquent dog.