A penny saved is ridiculous.

A penny saved is ridiculous.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Last of Jesse

Split Image, the final Jesse Stone thriller, can be more accurately described as a Jesse Stone & Sunny Randall thriller, as both Robert B. Parker protagonists are in it about equally. It's a fun, engaging story- stories, actually, as Jesse and Sunny are working separate cases- but there's really nothing you haven't seen before: Jesse investigates two murders that initially look like mob hits, but soon learns that intimate doings closer to home might have played a part in the crimes; Sunny looks into the case of a runaway girl, and- not surprisingly- finds family dysfunction at the heart of the matter.

In other words, the dark underbellies of marriage and family life once again are the real culprits here. Don't worry, I won't get more specific, but let's just say that we've been down this path before. This time, the results are perfectly fine, but don't deliver the resonance and subtlety of similar Parker plots like the ones in Paper Doll, Early Autumn, and a few other entries with strong family elements. There's lots of sex, though, both of the healthy and strange varieties.

Two particular sequences made me roll my eyes a bit. Both Jesse and Sunny experience "breakthroughs" with their psychiatrists, and I wasn't totally sold on what they learned. Jesse now believes that his own controlling nature is what caused his ex-wife Jenn to cheat, and Sunny comes to believe it was her fear of being turned into her weak, accepting mother that made her drive her strong husband away. So much for the idea of Jenn relentlessly cheating because of selfishness and career ambitions and Sunny leaving her husband because he was too controlling. Those were the general ideas put forth in earlier novels, and they seemed to make sense at the time. But I guess anything is open to re-examination.

In the end, Split Image is the usual fast, engaging, and smart Parker read, and so you certainly shouldn't avoid it if you've been onboard this long. I just wish this last Parker-penned Jesse Stone novel was a little more sharp and memorable. But that's okay. Dr. Parker had given us so many great books over the years that one would be a cad to complain about the ones that are merely "pretty good".

Split Image is available on Kindle for $9.99.

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