While everyone else in Paradise, Massachusetts, is hibernating for the winter, Police Chief Jesse Stone returns to solve murders ancient and modern in his adopted town.
Even though the Paradise Police Department is effectively two officers short, the discovery of a John Doe in an abandoned factory in Trench Alley shortly after it collapses would hardly strain its resources if it weren’t for another discovery nearby: a pair of skeletons in a hole a few feet away. Officer Molly Crane, moved from desk duty to the patrol rotation to replace Luther “Suitcase” Simpson, who’s slowly recovering from getting gut-shot (Robert B. Parker’s Blind Spot, 2014), instantly identifies the remains as those of Mary Kate O’Hara and Virginia Connolly, two of her old classmates from Sacred Heart High, who went missing on the Fourth of July 25 years ago. The gunshot wounds the more recent victim took to the head make it a lot less likely that he’ll be identified soon. Jesse dutifully contacts the girls’ parents, but the closest he gets to a lead comes when flamboyant divorcée Maxie Connolly, who blows into town with all the elemental force of a twister, apparently jumps off a cliff soon after. Jesse, who’s not entirely convinced that the death of the tale’s most appealing character was suicide, divines that someone’s trying to cover something up. But surrounded as usual by unsupportive townsfolk as closemouthed as they are closed-minded, he can only wait for the bad guys to make a mistake—unless Cpl. Drew Allen Jameson, who thinks he recognizes a distinctive tattoo on the John Doe that’s been broadcast around the country, can clear things up when he arrives.
Whatever pleasures readers find in this cluttered, long-winded, generally unsurprising tale, they’re remote from those formerly provided by the late Robert B. Parker and his laconic hero.