Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Coleman brilliantly intertwines the personal and professional life of Paradise police chief Jesse Stone. Having put Jesse through the ringer in the previous book, Debt To Pay, Coleman explores the emotions of guilt and grief in this novel.
Jesse is still trying to come to grips after seeing his fiancée, Diana, murdered by the crazed assassin Mr. Peepers. Unfortunately, he turns to the only friend that can drown out his sorrows, drinking. An interesting question put forth to the readers, “Did Jesse use alcohol to help control who he really was, or to free himself from who he wasn’t?”
Reed noted, “Jesse does not know the answer. This is one of the great mysteries of alcoholism, what role does the alcohol actually play? He would probably say it frees him as well as constrains him. After Diana was killed he takes a stark look at his life and takes a journey. He will need to decide if he will go down the abyss or change his life.”
To complicate matters Jesse has lost much of his support. Healy, the former head of the state homicide bureau has retired so his role has diminished in helping Jesse solve crimes. Dr. Tamara Elkin, the medical examiner, is determining if she should take a position offered to her in Texas. Jesse has also decided to sell the house overlooking the bay and move into the town of Paradise, instead of living on the outskirts of town. Not to mention the death of Diana and the organized crime boss, Gino Fish, who offered Jesse support and information.
The reason Coleman is turning the series upside down regarding the supporting cast, “I think to keep a series alive and interesting you have to kill off or get rid of characters. This was one of the things people liked about the Game Of Thrones. It keeps the story dynamic and stimulating. Because the deck of characters has grown to have them in the story clutters it, especially since I always have to write in everybody’s backstory.”
Regarding Jesse’s professional side, he is investigating the murder of an elderly woman. As Jesse is trying to find the culprits he also must deal with the mega-star-studded 75th birthday party for folk singer Terry Jester, who tore up the charts when Bob Dylan was popular. Jester has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet. But now he is coming out of hiding for his birthday bash in Paradise. Both sub-plots come together when Jesse suspects that the old woman's murder may be connected to the missing tape. Jesse follows clues all the way to Boston, where he gets a little help from a private eye named Spenser, who also tried to find the missing tape many years ago.
Reed said, “I actually wrote those scenes with Spenser, but had Ace Atkins and my editor look it over. I love the overlap. Ace and I have always talked about writing a book together where Spenser and Jesse work on the same case. We would seriously love to do it.”
Music plays a great part of the stories’ mystery. Reed is a music lover and wanted to explore “the surrounding myths. A lot of my life was in the sixties where people were much less cynical and more believable. For example, people really believed Paul McCartney died. The cover of a Beatle album, Abbey Road, has Paul walking across the street barefoot, John looking like a priest, and George looks like a gravedigger. The end of the song ‘Strawberry Fields’ has Ringo shouting out ‘I buried Paul.’ I liked the notion of creating my own myth. I even wrote the poem in the book. Because I started my career as a poet I decided to flex my muscles and write a Sonnet specifically for the book.”
When asked where he will go with Jesse, Reed responded that readers will find out in the next book. Jesse’s life will change, but for the good or the bad? The plot of Robert B. Parker’s Colorblind addresses a situation just like the one that happened in Charlottesville.
This book perfectly balances a riveting plot and an exploration of the characters. Although readers will have to stay tuned to find out what happens to Jesse, they did get a captivating story surrounding a musical myth.