Night and Day
Author: Robert Parker
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Robert Parker’s protagonists do not merely fall in love. They become obsessed with the objects of their affections and they stay that way for a long time.
Sunny Randall, the heroine of a five-book series about a Boston private eye, cannot stop pining for her philandering former husband, who moved on long ago. Hard-bitten Everett Hitch, the main character in a series of stylish Westerns (the third will be published this fall) inexplicably turns to jelly in the presence of his conniving, self-centred girlfriend.
Even Spenser, the rugged Boston detective whose saga now extends to 36 books, goes gaga over his elegant girlfriend, Susan Silverman. It works out for him because Susan treats him well but Parker’s faithful readers will remember how Spenser turned murderous when Susan briefly left him for another man in “A Catskill Eagle” (1985).
Of all Parker’s characters, nobody has it worse than Jesse Stone, the police chief of the imaginary coastal town of Paradise, Mass., and the hero of “Night and Day,” the eighth book in the series.
Jesse cannot stop obsessing about his unfaithful, gold-digging wife, Jenn. Worse, she comes back to him every time she’s lonely or in trouble, only to flit away again as soon as she finds someone else she can sleep with to advance her TV news career. This has gone on so long that some readers have become irritated not only with Jenn but also with the otherwise strong and sensible Jesse, who has put up with it for much too long.
In “Night and Day,” Parker directly explores sexual and romantic obsessions.
There’s Jesse’s obsession with Jenn, of course.
And then there’s Betsy Ingersoll, the junior high school principal whose obsession with propriety and hunger for attention leads her to engage in bizarre behaviour. For one thing, she inspects all the girls’ undergarments before a school dance and sends home those wearing lace or thongs.
And finally there’s the local man who calls himself “the Nighthawk.” Obsessed with looking at naked women, he begins as a Peeping Tom and escalates to home invasions, ordering his victims to disrobe at gunpoint.
Jesse wants to find a way to punish Ingersoll, even though she hasn’t broken any laws.
He needs to catch the Nighthawk before someone gets shot.
And when Jenn runs off again, this time to a new job and a new guy in New York City, Jesse finally realizes he’s got to break the cycle of pining for her when she’s gone and taking her back when she returns.
By the end of the novel, Jesse has rekindled an old fling with Sunny Randall, who has made brief appearances in several Stone books. The reader is left with hope that this may at last portend a healthier emotional future for both of them – but to be sure we’ll have to await the next instalments.
“Night and Day” is one of the better books in what has been an entertaining series. As usual, the plot is a bit thin, but as in every Parker novel, the great attraction is the writing. The author’s wry wit and clear, muscular prose go down so easily that his books seem to be not so much read as inhaled.