Saturday, May 09, 2009
Reviewing: "Night and Day" by Robert B. Parker
Jesse Stone returns in "Night and Day" in a case liberally borrowed from the nation's headlines. There is a bit of a problem down at the local junior high school. Parents are mad, students are upset, and Principal Betsy Ingersoll is convinced that she did nothing wrong. The day before was the eighth grade dance held every year. This time, Principal Betsy Ingersoll, who has been principal for five years, took all the girls in to the girl's locker room right before the dance to personally check each girl's underwear.
Girls that had underwear on that Mrs. Ingersoll didn't approve of were sent home. At least, that is what the kids and their parents say and they want her in jail and punished. Betsy Ingersoll is politically connected and she won't say what she did or why. All she will say is how she has done so much for the kids over the years and how she has the kid's interests at heart. But, she never really addresses what she did, why she did it, and whether she understands how upset everyone else is by her actions. The students are upset, parents are furious, and Jesse is pretty mad too. The real question is whether or not the principal actually committed a prosecutable crime.
Along with that case, which despite increasing political pressure on Police Chief Jesse Stone he isn't about to let go of easily, Paradise also has a peeping tom and a swinger's club. This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen in small town America, and the fact that every one knows everyone else for years and years, just make it worse. If that wasn't enough, Jenn is being Jenn again and that is never a good thing for Jesse. Featuring the usual minimalist scene descriptions and theoretically witty repartee between Jesse and his staff, Jesse Stone works the cases, drinks heavily and often, and spends lots of time considering the past. That creates a slow moving book full of melancholy memories.
The limited action in the book is provided by the secondary storyline in the mind and actions of the peeping tom who bills himself as "Night Hawk." Clichéd and stereotypical, the storyline provides all the action in the book and easily becomes more important than the main storyline of administrator stupidity and political power. Even then, the "Night Hawk" storyline frequently drags because he is aware of his own issues and seems to be melancholy about his actions and obsessions.
In recent years it has become increasingly obvious by the way the typeset is placed on the page, the very short chapters, and other tricks that the novels are padded for length requirements. That certainly is true here and made even more glaringly obvious by the lack of depth to the storylines. Instead of being a decent short story, the tale was elongated to the point of absurdity in an effort to reach the mandatory length.
Despite those issues the novel is sure not to disappoint his fanatic legions of fans worldwide who still, without a thought, unquestioningly genuflect before each book.
Night and Day: A Jesse Stone Novel
Robert B. Parker
G. P. Putnam's Sons (Penguin Group)
Kevin R. Tipple © 2009