KILLING THE BLUES by Michael Brandman
Since Robert B. Parker died and left a slew of fans clamoring for more books about his iconic characters, a few writers have stepped into the breach to deliver more tales. Michael Brandman is a producer on the Jesse Stone films starring Tom Selleck, which I enjoy a lot. During these productions, Brandman got to know Parker well enough to pick up the reins on the Jesse Stone novels and get the next one onto the bookshelves.
I held back from reading this one for various reasons. The Jesse Stone novels hadn’t been a favorite of mine due to the Jesse/Jen relationship. Every time I read a book, I wanted to slap Jesse and tell him to get over it because a strong hero doesn’t pine away like that. The last book that combined Jesse Stone with Sunny Randall kind of moved the story past that old relationship (for both of them), and I hoped Parker would have developed the two more as a couple.
Well, we don’t know what Parker had in mind. Maybe he talked it over with Brandman, maybe not. At any rate, Brandman rockets past the relationship and onto new turf.
Brandman also settles for a revenge plot this time out that just didn’t hit the spot for me. Our bad guy is off screen too much, and not directly in Jesse’s way. We needed more friction for more tension. At least, that’s how I felt.
The author’s involvement with television storytelling is immediately apparent as well. There are three plot lines that move Jesse along: the revenge one, another that involves a series of car thefts that eventually turn lethal, and a high school bullying investigation that points out the failings of our current school system.
As I noted, the revenge angle just doesn’t grab enough traction even though it requires a visit to Dix, Jesse’s counselor.
The car thefts are good in that they involve Jesse in Spenser’s world, building onto the overlapping geography between the two characters. We get to see Gino Fish and Vinnie Morris (also a fave of mine) in action, though that kind of pulls the teeth on Jesse’s involvement in the solution of those crimes. That was a letdown.
The school bullying thing was kind of wishy-washy to me. We have a victim and a villain, only the villain turns out to be another victim, which muddies the water, and none of this is truly explored enough to satisfy me.
Another weird thing that takes place is Jesse’s move from his apartment to a house that looks exactly like the home where Tom Selleck lives in the series. I figure Brandman just fell in love with the site they scouted and didn’t want to let it go.
The writing is a very close pastiche of Parker in style. The book is short and tight (and maybe the brevity is a problem, looking forward to the Reed Farrel Coleman books because they’re twice as long and I want to see how Coleman handles the characters). The dialogue (and lack of question marks) is pretty close to being spot-on as well.
I had a good time reading the book, but it was over quick and I didn’t really feel connected. It’s one of those quiet, by yourself reads during the rainy days.