Robert B. Parker's Sea Change

Robert B. Parker’s Sea Change is a police detective mystery, one of a series starring Jesse Stone, the chief of police for Paradise, Massachusetts. This New York Times bestselling novel opens with two characters relaxing on a sailboat. One is hit by the boom and falls overboard. She drowns after the person on the boat deliberately drives into her. This Paradise has a snake in the garden.

Jesse Stone suspects two different yacht owners who are docked in Paradise for a week of sailboat racing. Their fast-paced world of wealth and privilege is also a seamy one of sex, pornography, drinking, and drugs. Fort Lauderdale policewoman Kelly Cruz aids in the investigation by examining the victim’s family connections. The action of the novel alternates between Fort Lauderdale and the Massachusetts coastal town, and between Jesse Stone’s public and private lives as he tries to reunite with his ex-wife.

The character of the investigator provides the chief appeal of this novel. Jesse Stone is recovering from alcoholism and a divorce, working hard to overcome the problems of his past. He is the quintessential hard-boiled detective – cynical and tough but with a softer side that emerges in his relationship with his ex-wife. A deeply compelling figure, he has flaws like us, but is determined to overcome problems and forge on ahead. Jesse’s bravery, resiliency, and moral integrity are inspiring. His relationship with the female characters in the novel is depicted in scenes of witty, fast-paced dialogue.

The plot itself is suspenseful and clever, keeping the reader guessing throughout. The style of writing has its own appeal; it is terse and hard-edged like the language of a Hemingway novel. The alluring seaside setting with its dark undercurrent of corrupt wealth is a truly modern-day “Paradise,” one that appeals, as Stasio points out, to Parker’s keen sense of irony.

Parker, Robert B. Sea Change. New York: Berkley Books, 2006.