"Robert B. Parker's Colorblind" (G.P. Putnam's Sons), by Reed Farrel Coleman
Small-town Massachusetts Police Chief Jesse Stone's lifelong drinking problem hit bottom in "The Hangman's Sonnet" as he anguished over the death of his fiancee, who was murdered in "Debt to Pay."
Now, in "Colorblind," Reed Farrel Coleman's fifth Jesse Stone novel (the latest installment in a series originated by the late Robert B. Parker), Stone returns to work after a long overdue month in rehab.
Any hope that he could ease back into the job is dashed when a young black woman with a white boyfriend is brutally raped and murdered. At first, Jesse thinks the case resembles another from years ago, but when a cross is burned on the lawn of another interracial couple, Jesse recognizes that a new kind of trouble has come to the town of Paradise.
"Colorblind" represents a further advance in Coleman's effort to make this series his own. For one thing, he has made no attempt to mimic Parker's idiosyncratic writing style. For another, he has been gradually deepening the character of the protagonist, making him more human and memorable. This time around, he has changed the fictional seaside town of Paradise too, diversifying its ethnic and racial makeup with a wave of outsiders moving in from nearby Boston.
Some folks in town are uneasy about that. When a young black officer that Jesse hired over the objection of the town council guns down an apparently unarmed white suspect in the cross burning, tensions run high.
As a white nationalist organization from out of town muscles in, urging residents to "take your town back," Jesse has to act fast.
The result is another well-written, fast-paced yarn from one of the acknowledged masters of crime fiction.
Bruce DeSilva, winner of the Mystery Writers of America's Edgar Award, is the author of the Mulligan crime novels including "The Dread Line."