Night Passage by Robert B. Parker

Night Passage (Jesse Stone, #1)Night Passage by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three stars is a stretch, but it’s an easy read and filled a few hours. Jesse Stone is a burnt-out, failed LAPD detective with an ex-wife and a drinking problem. He gets hired to be the new police chief of a small Massachusetts town because the selectmen want a lush they can control. The leading man of the town, Hasty Hastings, is corrupt and also leads a group of paranoid neo-nazi types. Jesse is the classic anti-hero cop. The plot doesn’t really exist. Jesse just exists there while the bad guys implode around him. If you’re looking for clever detecting or a police procedural, this isn’t it.

The style was interesting. Parker is obviously a journeyman schlock noir crime novelist. The story flows along with ease despite being content-free. He and the publishers know all the tricks. Almost all of it is dialogue with very short sentences and wide margins. This means almost every page is 96% white space. Chapters are on average three pages long with every new chapter starting halfway down the next page, so there’s an extra load of emptiness. This is a 75-page book stretched to 322 pages. One odd choice was irritating: for some reason every chapter’s first line was in a weird mock handwriting font that was hard to read. Jesse and nearly every other character respond to questions and many other comments with the one word “sure.” Much of the conversation is psycho-babble or other filler. Example:
“Jenn called the other night,” Jesse said.
“Oh?”
“She broke up with Elliott.”
“The producer?”
“Yes.”
“So what does that mean?” Abby said.
“I don’t know.”
“Well, what does it mean to us?” Abby said.
“Us?”
“Us. You know, you and me…”
This riveting dialogue takes up most of a page.

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