"Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins" (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by Reed Farrel Coleman
A nor'easter hits Paradise, Massachusetts, with a vengeance, burying the fictional coastal town in snow and collapsing a long-vacant industrial building on the edge of town. In the wreckage, police discover the fresh corpse of a man, his face obliterated by a shotgun blast.
The mystery deepens when workers clearing the debris discover two skeletons concealed under the building's floor. Paradise police officer Molly Crane takes one look and bursts into tears, knowing they have found her girlhood friends who vanished during their high school years.
Murder is bad for business in a town that relies on the tourist trade, so police chief Jesse Stone must solve the case quickly or risk losing his job.
This sets up the action in "Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins," veteran crime novelist Reed Farrel Coleman's second strong effort to revive the late Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series.
Parker, who wrote nine Jesse Stone novels, was best known for his 39 books featuring a Boston private eye named Spenser. In Parker's hands, the Stone novels were beautifully written in a distinctive style, but Jesse never emerged as a fully developed character. He was just Spenser with a drinking problem.
The first attempt to continue the Jesse Stone series, three poorly written novels by TV script writer Michael Brandman, are best forgotten. But in the new novel, Coleman does a remarkable job of developing the character, deepening our understanding of his struggle with the ghosts that haunt him.
This was no easy task because Coleman had to work within the constraints of the history that Parker created for Jesse, and because Jesse has always been resistant to introspection. As Coleman has put it in press interviews, "I needed to find Jesse, and Jesse needed to find Jesse."
The result is both a fine mystery story and a satisfying portrait of an emerging character that readers will look forward to hearing more from soon.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of four crime novels including "A Scourge of Vipers."