After waiting in Spenser’s long shadow for three cases, alcoholic small-town police chief Jesse Stone (Death in Paradise, 2001, etc.) comes into his own big-time when he goes up against a husband-and-wife pair of serial killers.
The genteel culprits, who use murder as foreplay, are neither mystifying nor entirely credible. What’s compelling is Jesse’s patience and pain as he works from one corpse to the next in little Paradise, Mass. What can he learn from the fact that each victim’s been shot twice by two different .22’s or from descriptions of a red Saab that was spotted at two crime scenes? And once he’s satisfied himself as to the smiling perps’ identities, what can he do to bring them down? These would be tough questions even if Jesse weren’t already laboring under the weight of another case in which answers come faster than justice—the rape of Candace Pennington by three of her high-school classmates who threaten her with worse if she talks to anybody, and who’s saddled with a mother no daughter would talk to anyway—and the eternal wait for Jenn, his newscaster ex, to fall back into his arms in between the embraces he exchanges with a local realtor, a future murder victim, and one of the rapist’s attorneys.
Jesse preens less than the better-known Spenser and earns his male posturing more completely through his appealing vulnerability. Good-bye, Mr. Second String: A star is born.