An upcoming birthday celebration sticks Paradise police chief Jesse Stone with a case that even Spenser, his private-eye counterpart in the late Parker’s better-known franchise, couldn't solve.
Terry Jester, ne Jacobivitz, is about to turn 75, and Stan White, his longtime manager, is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the event. It would be wonderful if the great man could mark the day, and end 40 years out of the musical limelight, by releasing "The Hangman’s Sonnet," his legendary comeback project, but the master tape of the album, which reportedly featured all sorts of A-list musicians in unaccustomed support of Boston’s answer to Bob Dylan, vanished years ago, unheard by anyone but WBMB DJ Roscoe Niles. Jesse, still mourning his murdered fiancee, Diana Evans (Robert B. Parker’s Debt to Pay, 2016), while he celebrates the wedding of Officer Luther "Suitcase" Simpson, wants nothing better than to be left alone to fall off the wagon again. But medical examiner Tamara Elkin lectures him about drinking himself numb; Paradise mayor Constance Walker alternately needles and threatens him over his minimal efforts at making her look good; and the death of elderly Maude Cain at the hands of a pair of burglars demands his attention. There’s no mystery about who the burglars were—with the help of his mobbed-up frenemy Vinnie Morris, whom he consults when he doesn’t feel like doing actual detective work, Jesse quickly identifies them as Kirk Kingston Curnutt and Humphrey Bolton—the big questions involve what they were looking for and whether they found it before they took off. An even bigger question has an even more obvious answer: could the long-missing mix tape and the brand-new burglary possibly be connected? A cameo appearance by Spenser resolves nothing but makes Jesse, who can certainly use a boost, look comparatively good.
The convoluted plot entangles a remarkable number of suspects. If you think you’ve picked out the guilty party, you’re probably right.