Having read most of Robert B. Parker's novels, I knew what to expect from this one. Short, crisp, world-weary wise-guy dialog. Action. Tough guys. Interesting characters. Murder.
Most of it is there. This one is little short on action and way long on relationships. Jesse Stone, the venerable hero of a half-dozen or so novels, is the police chief in little Paradise, Massachusetts. He is divorced from his former wife, Jen, but can never really let her go. In earlier novels, she has followed him to the East Coast from LA so she can be near him.
In the last novel, Jesse met and became involved with Sunny Randall, a lady PI in Boston who has her own series of Robert B. Parker novels. In this one, they are in love. Sunny, however, also has an ex that she can't quite live without.
This makes for lots of confusion, soul searching, and dysfunctional relationships. Does Jesse love Jen or Sunny more? Can Jesse give up Jen enough to be in a committed relationship with Sunny? Can Sunny give up her ex, Richie, enough to be in a committed relationship with Jesse? These pressing, urgent soap opera questions form the major, major subplot of the book. And no, they don't really get resolved.
Frankly, I got very tired of the whole mess. I liked the murder plot. I like Jesse. I like Sunny. I like Rosie (Sunny's dog). I don't much care for Jen, whose driving force in life seems to be advancing her career by sleeping with whoever might prove helpful. I just got tired of all the talking (and thinking, and studiously not talking) about who loves whom the most or the best and how should they act together. Enough already! Not to call upon stereotypes too much, I'll just hint that I'll bet Parker's female readers will enjoy this more than his male fans.
However, if you follow either Jesse or Sunny's series of books, you have to read this one. Sigh.
One additional note about the unabridged audio version (I listened to the cassettes): Parker's zippy, short dialog can be a pain to listen to when read aloud. About a third of each page is composed of dialog attributions. (You know, "he said," "she said," "Jesse said," and the like.) When reading, your eye just skips over it unless you need it to keep track of who's speaking. On tape, a conversation of twenty short comments back and forth between characters drowns you in "he said"s. It takes some work to stop hearing them and being bothered by them. But in spite of this and the slightly negative comments above, it's a Parker book, so you just gotta read it.