By MARK TURNER
Author Robert Parker is perhaps best known for the series of books he wrote about his private detective Spenser, mostly due to the popularity of the TV series which starred the late Robert Urich. But he began a series of books based on a second character named Jesse Stone and those stories have been turned into TV films starring Tom Selleck in the lead role. The latest has just arrived on DVD.
As the film opens Jesse is dealing with a form of depression, falling back into old habits of drinking (the character has a history of alcoholism) after being placed into forced retirement by the town council of Paradise, the town he lives in. The head of that group has plans for Jesse’s position, namely inserting his son in law as the head of the police department.
Jesse ends up having more to worry about when a young woman named Cindy Van Alden (Eileen Boylan) turns up dead, an apparent suicide. This was a young girl that Jesse had helped in the past, getting her into rehab and trying to save her life. The new police chief is more concerned with the tourist trade in town and the damage the death of a local tied to drugs could do. So Jesse takes it upon himself to look deeper into the girl’s death.
Without a badge how can he do so? Jesse was recently asked by his friend Healy of the State Police to assist in a different investigation. This side story takes up little of Jesse’s time and permits him to carry a badge while looking into Cindy’s past.
It turns up that Cindy’s rehab experience wasn’t quite what Jesse thought it would be. As he talks to the doctor that heads the facility he learns that the man is a resident of Paradise and that for all the talk of trying to save people’s lives the facility is actually a rehab mill, a place that offers a quick fix to addicts and then turns them lose with little or no follow up.
As Jesse puts together the pieces of the puzzle elements of the Russian mob, an assist from a former foe named Gino (William Sadler) and taking on the responsibility he felt he ignored that resulted in the young girl’s death all come to play. The guilt of her death weighs heavy on his shoulders and inspires him to find justice for another life lost.
This film is quite different than most mysteries seen today. Rather than count on heavy duty gunfire and fast paced car chases, the film focuses on character development and dialogue that rolls smoothly rather than at a whip snake pace. Conversations seem like conversations and words by all characters are chosen wisely so as to not trip themselves up, the result being placed in jail.
Selleck does a great job as Jesse Stone, a man with a troubled past and who is currently troubled with the present. He intends on taking back his job, the only one he’s truly ever known and excelled at. The town council may be more interested in the appearance of the town on the surface but Jesse is concerned with justice and the safety of the people who live there. At the same time his inner demons have started him drinking again and the depression he deals with has caused him to seek help in a psychiatrist/ex-cop played by William Devane.
The pacing of the film seems incredibly slow but on reflection you realize that it’s just the story unfolding in the most natural way possible. Plot devices aren’t tossed in randomly and the interaction between characters makes this a much better film than one would expect.
Parker only finished 9 novels with this character before his death. This story was written by the man continuing the tales of Jesse Stone, Michael Brandman, and Selleck himself. They’ve done a great job and one can only hope to see more.