DEATH IN PARADISE is, if not Parkers best book, then certainly one of the greats, up there with A Catskill Eagle or Pastime. Parkers writing has become ever more spare, elegant and honed down, but remains enormously satisfyinga sort of prose haiku of crime.

This series, featuring Paradise, MA Chief of Police Jesse Stone, is even more ruled by the heart than his Spenser books. The narrative strands weave together a young womans death; Jesses still unabated love for his ex-wife, Jenn; and Jesses unhealthy desire for, and continuing struggle with, alcohol.

All share equal billingthe insights about Jesses mind and heart are as sharp and fraught with hard-earned wisdom as his analyses of crime scenes. This is a procedural in the best sense of the word. We accompany Jesse throughout his dayas he helps a battered woman find the courage to leave her husband, tracks down the murdered girls identity, swaps stories with the police softball teamand the reader is made very aware of both the fragility and strength, as well as the interconnectedness, of humanity. All in all, this is an extraordinary novel, in addition to being a first-rate mystery. (Oct., 320 pp., $23.95)

Reviewed by: 
Laurie Davie