Photo: Book cover, from its Goodreads page.
The new book in the Jesse Stone series, Fool Me Twice, is a good, quick read, as I read it in just a few hours. Having said that, I can't say much more positive about it, since the plot is a rehash of Parker's Looking for Rachel Wallace (with somewhat the same result for the characters), and the dialogue is almost stolen from Parker's style cabinet, but without the wit and flair. I read it like I put on last year's professional wardrobe. Quickly, without effort, appreciating the comfort, but still wondering why I'm still wearing it. Ace Atkins has fared much better with his one Spenser novel so far. Speaking of these series, both started, of course, by the late, great Robert B. Parker (who I met and spoke with a few times; he was nice enough to give me two autographs and his agent's name, the last of which is unheard of from an established writer to an unpublished one), I think we can now do away with the Robert B. Parker's tag before every title of each series. Take a peek at the list of published works from the last three books since his last, and see how odd those titles look there.
What else? Jesse Stone in Brandman's last seemed like Jesse Stone, I guess, after taking a blabbermouth pill. This time, he sounds a lot like Spenser. He even flirts like Spenser. Brandman still hasn't pinned down his inherited character. Jesse Stone is not normally interested in saving the badly parented juveniles as Spenser had been (Paul; April Kyle), so when he does it here, he seems to be putting on Spenser's shoes. That series is so well-known for its bad parents raising screwed-up kids that it's blasphemy and overdone to see it here. Jesse Stone is simply not as altruistic as Spenser; he's too insecure and unconfident about himself to be Superman for anyone else. The series has already well-established this. Brandman can change that, of course, but not without showing the change, and the cause of that change. He never does that.
We see Rita Fiore (which is always a pleasure), but we also see the new Federal Guy in Boston. Parker and Atkins made this guy an annoying dweeb, which is fine, but Brandman makes him one of the all-time dufuses of today's crime fiction. This guy, as drawn by Brandman, would never have made it to his current position, or even be accepted into the academy. He blames the star's bodyguard of having either the hots for her, or of having an affair with her, and it's her supposed rejection of him that makes him kill her. Yet any guy with any decent people skills, intelligence, and five spare minutes with the bodyguard in question would know that this was simply not the case. He ignores even the most obvious of evidence; I'm talking stuff that Fred, Shaggy, Wilma, Scooby and Daphne would've known what to do with. Nancy Drew would've fixed her hair and then nailed the evidence and personalities involved here, and this guy flubbed both, with drama. It's really bad, like he's never even heard the word "evidence" before, or like he's never had to read people's personalities before. Have I made it clear that this guy was terribly drawn, written and executed? Simply not believable. We say hello to a couple of other Spenser cross-overs, too, but they seem to be in the neighborhood only for show.
There's a case with the local water company that's a head-scratcher for the reader, especially this one. Not that I wouldn't mind having a word or two with my own local water guys, but this subplot is nonsensical and out of place in this book. It has no relevance here, either thematically or in the plot. It reinforces that everyone's messed up and untrustworthy, but we know that already. We know what the novel's #1 bad guy is going to do, and though we're surprised by how Brandman delivers it to us, we're not surprised that it happens. The real surprise comes later; since the bodyguard never leaves the area, and since any mail would be traced to him, thereby blowing his cover (he's in hiding for awhile), we wonder where he got the red ants from. (I'm no insect expert, but I'm firm that biting red fire ants cannot survive between the Cape and the North Shore, in even the hottest of all MA winters.) Again, not believable.
So it passed the time, and it was a quick and easy read. I could probably say the same for Goosebumps and the Berenstein Bears, so I don't know. The series is being kept afloat, I suppose, and the previous one must've sold pretty well for this one to come out so quickly after...and I see that it's got an average of four stars from other critics...It's a pair of comfortable slippers, I suppose, though I haven't consistently worn my slippers in years...And I'll buy the next Brandman/Stone book in the series, so...
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