Robert B. Parker
Publication Date: February 2009
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: August 2011
Jesse Stone is at it again. This time he has to deal with a high school principal who decides to inspect female students' panties (and she has a high-powered and irritable lawyer for a husband), a Swingers' club, and a Peeping Tom who is escalating to home invasions.
Peaceful Paradise, Massachusetts, a sleepy, normally quiet town, is home to Jesse Stone, the Chief of Police, and his small ensamble of officers. While sitting around his office doing nothing in particular, he is interrupted by Molly Crane, one of his officers, who reports that "Suit," another officer, just called in. It seems that Betsy Ingersoll, the high school principal, picked up the dresses of all the girls in her school who were about to attend the eighth-grade dance and took a peek at their underwear. Parents, learning of this invasion of their daughters' privacy, have stormed the school and are demanding action. Jesse, in his usual, somewhat laid back, casual, let's-not-jump-to-conclusions manner, sets about to learn more about the event and decide what sort of action he should take.
Meanwhile, the "Night Hawk" a Peeping Tom, has started making the rounds of Paradise. Townsfolk are soon frightened into drawing their shades and in return, a frustrated Night Hawk turns to more threatening, and dangerous, behavior. He begins entering the homes of 40ish mothers, whose husbands and children are at work/school. Demanding they take their clothes off, the Night Hawk then takes photos and, without touching his victims, leaves. Jesse is stumped at who the Night Hawk might be and the fact that this criminal starts to send the Chief taunting letters about his crimes doesn't help.
While Jesse has his hands full with the Peeping Tom and dealing with the Principal and her obnoxious husband, he gets a visit from 13-year-old Missy Clark. It seems that her parents are swingers and they have some of their "get-togethers" at their house. Although they tell Missy and her younger brother to stay upstairs, the two children know what is going on and are frightened. "Can you make them stop?" she asks Jesse. The catch is that what Missy's parents are doing isn't illegal, and she insists Jesse not mention that she came to him for help. How will he handle this?
As the story progresses, it appears that at least two, and maybe all three of the people/events Jesse is working on may be related. Will he and his small crew, basically Molly and Suit, be able to solve the Peeping Tom case, help Missy, and find a suitable punishment (civil action perhaps?) for Mrs. Ingersoll?
Like all of the Jesse Stone novels, this book is heavy on dialogue and light on descriptions and background information. With so much dialogue, the 289 pages can be read fairly quickly but that's not a bad thing. It's a fun book, particularly for fans of the series. There's a lot of back and forth banter between Jesse and his officers as they are settling into their characters nicely and the reader is getting to know each of them so well. I wouldn't recommend starting the series with this book, however, as there is very little explanation of who/what/when/where and quite a few references to past events (for instance, Molly's one-night tryst with Crew, a character from Stranger in Paradise. This is also not an "edge of your seat, nail-biting, wait until the last page to figure it out" kind of mystery. You'll likely have the culprit and cases figured out before Jesse, but it's a heck of a lot of fun to go along for the ride with this enduring, and endearing, police chief.
Quill says: Fans of Robert Parker won't be disappointed with this entry in the Jesse Stone series.