Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill By Reed Farrel Coleman
The opioid epidemic has reached Paradise, and Police Chief Jesse Stone must rush to stop the devastation in the latest thriller in Robert B. Parker's New York Times-bestselling series.
When a popular high school cheerleader dies of a suspected heroin overdose, it becomes clear that the opioid epidemic has spread even to the idyllic town of Paradise. It will be up to police chief Jesse Stone to unravel the supply chain and unmask the criminals behind it, and the investigation has a clear epicenter: Paradise High School. Home of the town's best and brightest future leaders and its most vulnerable down-and-out teens, it's a rich and bottomless market for dealers out of Boston looking to expand into the suburbs.
But when it comes to drugs, the very people Jesse is trying to protect are often those with the most to lose. As he digs deeper into the case, he finds himself battling self-interested administrators, reluctant teachers, distrustful schoolkids, and overprotective parents . . . and at the end of the line are the true bad guys, the ones with a lucrative business they'd kill to protect.
About Reed Farrel Coleman:
Reed Farrel Coleman’s love of storytelling originated on the streets of Brooklyn and was nurtured by his teachers, friends, and family.
A New York Times bestseller called a hard-boiled poet by NPR’s Maureen Corrigan and the “noir poet laureate” in the Huffington Post, Reed is the author of novels, including Robert B. Parker's Jesse Stone series, the acclaimed Moe Prager series, short stories, and poetry.
Reed is a three-time Edgar Award nominee in three different categories—Best Novel, Best Paperback Original, Best Short Story—and a three-time recipient of the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel of the Year. He has also won the Audie, Macavity, Barry, and Anthony Awards.
A former executive vice president of Mystery Writers of America, Reed is an adjunct instructor of English at Hofstra University and a founding member of MWA University. Brooklyn born and raised, he now lives with his family–including cats Cleo and Knish–in Suffolk County on Long Island.
Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins
Robert B. Parker's Blind Spot
Robert B. Parker's Debt to Pay
Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet
Robert B. Parker's Colorblind
Where It Hurts (Gus Murphy, #1)
Monnie reviewed : When I finished Colorblind," the previous book in this series, I wasn't sure how much I liked the "new" police chief of small-town Paradise. After all, Jesse Stone had sold his spacious coastal home and moved into a condo, discovered a grown son he never knew he had, given up booze and (gasp!) answered questions with more than two words. Not that I want anyone to bang around alone in a dusty old mansion or be a drunk, mind you, but those less-than-perfect aspects did make for a unique personality that I'd come to love over many years (this is the 18th in the series started by the late, great Robert B. Parker).
And I must admit, over the first several chapters of this one, my doubts continued; the whole thing seemed to get off to a rather slow start (if nothing else, I got a bit weary of all the references to Jesse's not drinking anymore). But about a third of the way through, things started to get much more interesting. Jesse, it seems, isn't the only thing that's changed; vandalism, gangs, graffiti and drugs have crept into town to wreak havoc in the relatively close-knit community not far from Boston. And sure enough, the story takes a dark turn with the death of a teenage girl - an overdose. No one wants to believe she'd been an addict for some time, but once that was established as fact, efforts turn to finding who sold her the drugs with, of course, the hope that the arrest will lead to identifying others farther up the supply chain.
But as we all know, there's many a slip; just as Jesse and his department cohorts Molly Crane and "Suitcase" Simpson figure out who provided the girl with the lethal drugs, that figure turns up dead as well. And it gets worse; apparently, a drug ring has moved to town, so Jesse must use every trick in his bag - including his unlikely friendship with a local mobster - to get to the bottom (or more accurately, the top) of things. As if that challenge isn't enough to knock him off the wagon, he finds himself grappling with emotional upheavals on a personal level that threaten to provide the final shove.
By the end, though, I decided that Jesse is still a guy with whom I'd love to share a burger and beer (or in his case, lemonade). Put another way, this is another entertaining entry in the series and I'm already looking forward to the 19th. Thanks to the publisher, via NetGalley, for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this one.
Hobart reviewed: Well, it's pretty clear that Don Winslow has left his mark on Reed Farrel Coleman—there's a quotation from Winslow on the so-called War on Drugs as the epigraph to this novel. Jesse cites it and alludes to it later in the novel. It's a good line—catchy and insightful (and, not that it matters, I agree 100% with it)—don't misunderstand me, but I'm used to Robert B. Parker characters citing Shakespeare, (Edmund) Spenser, Shelley, and songs from the late 60s/70s. I don't think I've ever seen one quote someone contemporary. The latest focus of most of our country in that War is the Opioid Crisis, in The Bitterest Pill, that epidemic shows up in Paradise, Massachusettes—partially fulfilling Vinnie Morris' prediction to Jesse that Boston crime was on its way to Paradise.
A student at Paradise High—the daughter of a city councilman—dies of an overdose and the city is rocked. It can't be the first drug-related death in its history, but this was a different kind of thing. She's not an obvious user, cheerleader, from a well-to-do family, and so on. Not the kind of person that Paradise is ready to believe would be an addict or that would die of an O.D.
What's obvious to Jesse and his team is that if they don't shut down the supply chain that fed this girl her drugs, she won't be the only death, she'll just be the first. This sets Jesse on a Hunt through Paradise High School and Boston's underbelly. There's a moment that made me think of Connelly's Two Kinds of Truth (which just means that Connelly and Coleman have both done their research into the ways prescription drug rings work, not that Coleman's copying anything)—but there's a difference. Bosch is trying to deal with a situation, he's involved in busting a ring as a means to an end. Jesse? He's trying to protect his town it's personal—and the ways that this particular ring is trying to invade Paradise are more diverse than what Bosch dealt with.
Skip this next paragraph if you're worried about Colorblind spoilers.
I avoided talking about the new character Cole last time out, because, how could I? I'm on the fence with him, honestly. I don't see where he was necessary—Jesse has Suit to father (although, at this stage, Luther doesn't need much), he's got the weight of the city on his shoulders, what's added to the character by this relation? On the other hand, scenes with him are done so well, and Jesse's different with him. I really enjoy him—he's not the Paradise equivalent of Paul Giacomin, thankfully (nothing against Paul, we just don't need another one), he's a different kind of character (as Jesse was compared to Spenser and Sunny).
Speaking of Suitcase, I think I've loved everything Coleman's done with him (every major thing, anyway, there might have been a scene or two that I forgot about), other than not using him as often as he could. But there's a scene with Suit and Cole in this book that is so well done that it's one of those passages I could read from time to time just to smile at. He's come a long way. Molly seemed a little under-used, but she was good whenever she showed up and did get to shine a bit. I think Coleman overplayed the difficulty of Molly doing her job because of the way this case impacted Paradise's children a bit (really not much), and, as always, he's too dependent on bringing up the incident with Crow in relation to Molly. But on the whole, Suit, Molly and the rest of Paradise PD came off pretty well.
For awhile under Coleman and Ace Atkins, Vinnie Morris seemed more dangerous, more of a wild card—less "tamed." But both the way that Atkins has used him the last time or two and here he seems to be tacking back to a friendly criminal who's too willing to help out the non-criminal element. Frankly, I prefer the less-tame version, but as someone who's enjoyed Vinnie since he worked for Joe Broz ages ago, I don't care, I just like seeing him on the page.
After the very effective use of the mayor recently, I was surprised at her absence in this novel—not that there was room for anything like that.
There's really one more supporting character that we should talk about—Alcohol. Jesse's greatest foe (although, you could argue he's the enemy and alcohol is the tool he uses to attack himself, but...eh, let's make this easy and say alcohol). He may be clean and sober, but he's still an addict, and his drug of choice is still a
Robert B. Parker's, The Bitterest Pill, Reed Farrel Coleman