“Robert B. Parker’s Fool’s Paradise,” by Mike Lupica (Putnam)
The body of a stranger who had been dropped off by a car service at the gate of the richest family in fictional Paradise, Massachusetts, is found floating in a lake. That same night, someone tries to rape a friend of the town’s deputy police chief.
That gives Deputy Molly Crane and her boss, Chief Jesse Stone, a lot to handle. Things promptly escalate when Molly and Jesse are both targeted for violence.
However, Mike Lupica gets “Robert B. Parker’s Fool’s Paradise” off to an agonizingly slow start with long passages about Jesse’s alcoholism, his complicated love life and his friendship with Molly. Fans of the series are already familiar with the characters originated by the late great Robert B. Parker, and Lupica’s musings add little to develop them. The pace picks up later when Lupica introduces several twists to the two plot lines, but neither is particularly well developed.
Worse, Lupica resolves the attacks on the police this way: The bad guy gets the drop on Jesse and intends to kill him but wastes time telling Jesse exactly what he has done and why, giving the chief an opening to turn the tables. It’s something no real criminal would do. This a lazy approach to tying up loose ends is a tiresome, overused trope of crime fiction.
Lupica is among a handful of writers entrusted with resurrecting the main characters in the four enormously popular and profitable series started by Parker. In fact, Lupica was also chosen to continue Parker’s novels about Boston private eye Sunny Randall, doing a fine job with his first two books in that series. The second, the well-plotted “Grudge Match,” was especially good. In it, he successfully mimics Parker’s distinctive prose style, one characterized by ironic dialogue and crisp, short sentences that jitterbug across the page in a rhythm you could dance to.
But in “Fool’s Paradise,” the first Jesse Stone novel since Lupica took over that series from Reed Farrel Coleman, he strays from Parker’s style with a lot of long, discursive paragraphs, and his attempts to reproduce Parker’s bantering dialogue often falls flat. The end result is an unexpected disappointment.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including “The Dread Line.”