Note: This review is by my husband Jim, who is reading Parker’s books in no particular order, and it doesn’t seem to affect his enjoyment of them. This book is the fifth in the Sunny Randall series.
In Blue Screen, Robert B. Parker introduces two of his favorite characters to each other. It so happens that Sunny Randall, a private detective, and Jesse Stone, a policeman, both are currently estranged from their respective spouses. Upon meeting, they then proceed to philosophize on the nature of love and experiment with a little sex. Told from Sunny’s perspective, the characters’ interplay seems quite realistic to me even though it is authored by a male.
Oh yes, they also have a murder to solve.
Sunny has been hired by film mogul Buddy Bolen to protect his up-and-coming star Erin Flint, a beautiful Amazonian actress who can’t act very well, but it doesn’t matter. Buddy lives in Paradise, Massachusetts, where Jesse is the Chief of Police. Buddy also owns a major league baseball team, the [fictional] Connecticut Nutmegs. Buddy plans to have Erin play for them as major league baseball’s first female player if she can learn to hit major league pitching. Erin fears that unseen forces may try to kill her to prevent her from playing in the Bigs. Despite the fact that her fear seems paranoid, Erin’s sister, Misty, who looks like Erin, is found dead with her neck broken in a way suggesting that an expert killer is at work.
Erin wants Sunny to work on the case even though it falls within Jesse’s jurisdiction. Jesse doesn’t (to say the least) mind to have Sunny on the case with him. Sunny’s and Jesse’s investigation into the former lives of Erin and Buddy leads them to Hollywood, where they uncover several likely suspects in the murder.
Jesse is a former AAA minor league baseball shortstop. This plot feature allows Parker to have Jesse appraise Erin’s likely ability to hit major league pitching, and to philosophize on whether any woman could make in the big leagues. Jesse’s verdict is that Erin could never make it — like Michael Jordan, her bat speed is too slow. He remains agnostic on whether some other woman “out there” might someday play in the majors.
The murder investigation takes a back seat to the real focus of the book, which is how Sunny and Jesse relate to one another. Moreover, the issue of whether Erin could hit a major league fast ball [she can’t] is nearly as important a subplot as the murder.
Evaluation: As always in a Parker novel, the chapters and the sentences are short and pithy and the dialog is clever and snappy. Who cares about the murder!
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a member of the Penguin Group, 2006