Blind Spot, a Robert B. Parker novel, currently written by Reed Farrel Coleman is a spell binding mystery. Coleman, who has been commissioned for the next three novels, after Parker’s death in 2010, is now authoring the Jesse Stone series. Having never read Parker it is impossible to comment on how much Blind Spot followed Parker’s works. However, this latest novel is very fast-paced, exciting, interesting, and can stand on its own merits.
With many of the top-notch mystery/thriller authors having passed away, the recent trend is to hire replacement authors. For fans of Flynn, Clancy, and Parker these new installments allow for the characters to continue to live on in the fictional world. Having set the bar high with great character development writers like Coleman successfully faced the challenge. He skillfully keeps to what Parker was known for, his format of short chapters, character’s personality, and snappy banter among the characters.
Coleman commented to blackfive.net, “When I was first offered this gig it was for a one-book deal. That happened after I did a fifty-page audition for the estate. I then had to sit down and discuss the plot with the editor. By the time I finished writing Blind Spot I had a four-book contract. I guessed I pleased who I had to please. I tried really hard to be true to the nature of the characters as set forth by Bob Parker. Fortunately, I had previously read several of the novels in the Jesse Stone series. After being chosen I re-read many of these novels to get a sense of the tone. With any series there is discovery, editing, figuring stuff out, putting new stuff in, while all the time creating a world. The pressure comes from knowing that there are millions of fans out there with expectations of what should be in a Jesse Stone novel. I hope I wrote the best book I could while following Parker’s form although not necessarily his style. Parker had laid out the groundwork for me since he masterfully built Jesse Stone in three dimensions. Having written several of my own series characters I understood the mechanics and the pitfalls of a long story arc. I came to the challenge with a great deal of respect for Mr. Parker and a love for the character Jesse Stone.”
Jesse Stone, the Police Chief of a small town in Massachusetts, is considered a very complicated figure with the over riding theme of regret affecting his life. This includes being one step away from becoming the starting shortstop for the Los Angeles Dodgers to being estranged from the love of his life. Coleman also powerfully delves into Stone’s drinking problem and his struggles to not let it overtake his life.
Baseball plays into the story through the fact that Jesse had his dream shattered.
Coleman believes, “It is having something you really want, come close, and then something happens to shatter that dream. I also wanted to make baseball allegorical for something. I hope the readers see the simile with the quote, ‘Baseball was a game of subtleties and opposites. At bat, the greatest players failed seventy percent of the time. In the field, if you were anything short of near perfection, you were considered a failure. Homicide investigation could be like that too, like fielding.’ A great homicide investigator must be like a fielder, not a hitter. If you want to stick around as a detective you better be more successful than one-third of the time.”
Besides utilizing the characters created by Parker, Coleman introduced some of his own. Dee, the FBI agent, who matches Stone step for step is written as independent, sexy, tough, smart, and loyal. Kayla, is Jesse’s former girl friend who was also once in love with him, and is now going through a mid-life crisis as she questions past decisions in her life.
With the backstory on Jesse and these new characters, Coleman writes a potent crime story that has Stone personally connected to the murders. After being invited to a baseball reunion by a former minor league teammate, Vic Prado, who happens to be married to Kayla, Jesse is informed about a young girl’s murder in his small town of Paradise. Through the investigative process it becomes clear that Prado is connected to the murder. It is up to Jesse and his squadron to find the killer and bring justice to those killed.
The author gave a heads up about his next books. “I am writing a new series that should be out next summer. The main character is a retired Suffolk County Long Island cop, Gus, who is very satisfied with his life. But when a family tragedy strikes, his world explodes and his life is thrown into disarray. The first novel, Where It Hurts, tells the story of his re-emergence and how he helps an ex-con find the people who murdered his son. It is through solving the case that Gus finds some unexpected answers about himself, the nature of tragedy, and gaining control.
The next Jesse Stone book will be out next fall and is called The Devil Wins. The plot involves an old crime that happened in Paradise before Jesse was police chief. It is a story of a crime that happens when Molly was a teenager. The book will focus on Molly who is a tough Irish Catholic mom and a very good cop, no matter what locale she works in. She has good cop instincts and sees the world for what it is as she tells it like it is. Her relationship with Jesse is complex since it can considered either one of friendship, just employee and boss, or will it turn into something beyond friendship.”
Coleman hopes to keep the themes of all the Parker books as payback, redemption, and regrets. Although Coleman embraced the Stone character he did not imitate Parker’s writing style. Instead, through his detailed characters and settings he brought life back into this series and into the Jesse Stone character. Fans and new comers alike will get hooked on Blind Spot, and should look forward to the next Jesse Stone book by Reed Coleman.