Brandman’s third installment of Parker’s second-string franchise springs a pair of seriously malnourished cases on Paradise, Mass.
The Jane Doe found in bungalow 12 of the Surf and Sand Motel was barely old enough to vote when someone stabbed her to death. Convinced that the victim was a prostitute, Paradise police chief Jesse Stone (Robert B. Parker’s Fool Me Twice, 2012, etc.) asks mobster Gino Fish to work his connections in order to identify her. Gino sends Jesse to Boston madam Clarice Edgerson and her associate Thomas Walker. Although Jesse and Clarice are clearly playing opposite ends of the street, they develop a surprising mutual respect. Not so for Walker, who tells his competitor Fat Boy Nelly that he’d love to see Jesse dead. Nor is Walker the only one, for the sad shape in which Jesse’s found his retired accountant, Donnie Jacobs, has pitted Jesse against the Golden Horizons Retirement Village, whose director, Dr. Benedict Morrow, is dealing with Donnie’s dementia by drugging him insensate and tying him to his bed. Jesse mobilizes Paradise’s fire, health and buildings departments against Golden Horizons, revealing hundreds of code violations and threatening to get the place condemned. Both Morrow and Philip Connell, the head of Amherst Properties, the cut-rate firm that recently purchased Golden Horizons, swear vengeance against Jesse. So who’ll get a piece of the police chief first—the mobbed-up pimp or the nursing-home executive?
After two rounds of wondering whether Brandman can ape his master’s style and structure and learning that he basically can, it’s uncanny to see him toss off a lazy, low-stakes, low-tension entry that’s so similar to so many of Parker’s own lesser efforts.