Sunday, May 2, 2010

Hard Boiled Crime/Mystery

I finished Split Image by Robert B Parker, the ninth and last Jesse Stone novel. It's also the last novel that features his other successful series character, Sunny Randall.

Last I'll see either character because Dr. Parker passed away last January. A terrible loss for his family to be sure, but to the genre and his large fan base as well. I know I was sad when I heard.

I recommend all Parker's novels as a matter of course. I love them for their crisp elegance. My favorite Parker books are, I must admit, his Virgil Cole westerns, but his most famous character is of course Spenser (39 novels from 1973 to 2010- a pretty good run). Like in the Spenser books, here there is humor, there is an adept insight into psychiatry, there is competent writing with mostly complete characters and snappy dialogue. Unlike the Spenser books, Jess Stone is very much a flawed character (so is Sunny Randall which I suppose makes them a good match). But Jesse struggles with obsessive behaviors and alcohol.

Well, the novel. Again a novel very much like the other Jesse Stone Novels (Oh and Tom Selleck comes off as a much older and grittier version than I imagine the book version of Jesse to be in the TV specials) without being overly repetitive. Or worse yet, being derivative! The novel follows Jesse, and to a lesser extent Sunny, as they try to solve crimes. Jesse struggles with his inner demons and goes on a bender, spending much of the rest of the novel trying to understand what set him off. A quick read. Dr. Parker left the ends rather well tied for me to believe these two characters may have a future.

The only real criticism I have, and it's really something I've seen in many of the books, is that the characters all get each other. What I mean is that there is a sort of ironic-self depricating-sarcasm to the humor one character will express to another. And for the most part all of the other characters 'get it' and have the same sort of snappy comebacks. Except for the criminals who all seem to exhibit the banality one would expect of a thug.

("It looks like it was hard to get into those pants' says Jesse; 'For who' retorts Sunny. That sort of stuff).

Something to keep in mind, most people come at conversations from different angles and don't always see irony or sarcasm as funny. Being an ironic-self depricating and sarcastic person myself, I feel that I can say with authority that not everyone 'gets it'. And even if they do get it, that doesn't mean everyone thinks it's funny. Well, me anyway. But then, I don't have such a skilled and experienced writer putting my material together.

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