Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Split Image by Robert B. Parker

Robert Parker seems to enjoy exploring how his various protagonists interact when they work together. Split Image brings Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall together and they turn out to be more than "work friends." He also throws in Spencer's girlfriend Susan Silverman as Sunny's psychotherapist.

The small coastal town of Paradise, MA has more than its share of crime. The latest is the murder of a small time criminal who worked for one of Paradise's two leading Mafia godfathers. The two Mafioso have identical houses with identical landscaping and (maybe not a surprise) identical twin wives. The wives were know as "the bang-bang twins" in high school due to their willingness to keep the local boys entertained. The husbands don't seem to know about this past life, but Jesse isn't sure it is really past. More murders occur and crime seems to be spinning out of control in this peaceful small town.

While Jesse is working on the mob, Sunny is hired by the parents of a girl who has run off to join the monastery of a new-age guru also in Paradise. Jesse and Sunny work together to bring both cases to a satisfying conclusion.

While the plot is a little thin, the best part of this book is the relationships of the characters. Parker has a wonderfully deadpan writing style that gets out of the way of the characters so they can come to life. In less able hands, the book would be a soap-opera. Jesse's demons haunt him without seeming cliche. Jesse's cops are totally loyal without seeming fawning. And Jesse and Sunny are falling in love without too much sentimentality.

Once again, I should mention that the books are not the TV movies. Tom Selleck makes a great Jesse Stone, but the production is greatly sanitized compared to the books.

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