Stranger In Paradise (Jesse Stone) [Paperback]
By Mel Odom (Moore, OK USA)
Parker plays fast and loose with the plotting. Several things are going on throughout the novel. The past encounter with Crow threads throughout, but I'm not quite sure I'm willing to buy everything Parker promotes this time. One of the things that most jarred me was the attraction to Crow by one of the former hostages from that armed robbery ten years ago. Parker sets Crow up to be this sexual fantasy figure for that woman and they have a "one-time deal" encounter.
Not only that, but Crow's sexual magnetism wins over the one character in this series that I thought would never stray outside her marriage. Parker has explored the nature of sex and attraction throughout this series, and I've gone along with it. But, to me, this encounter really cheapened what I thought was a fantastically solid character. This decision really bothered me, which is a good thing on one level because it shows how realistically the author has created his characters.
Crow is defined by two traits. One, his amoral ability to kill anyone (= savage Indian). Two, his love of women and their love of him (= Indian as sex object and fantasy figure).
So he's kind of a stereotypical: a stoic, sexy, savage Indian. But let's say his character is two-dimensional rather than one-dimensional. Parker's writing gives him some depth--hints at the complexity of his motivations.
Perhaps the oddest thing is how people doubt his claim to be a full-blooded Apache. Hello? Take a look at the guy. Does he look like a full-blooded Indian? If yes, then the question is whether he's Apache or something else. If no, the question is whether he's a mixed-blood or an Indian wannabe. But Stone and company never ask these questions.
Imagine if Wes Studi, a full-blooded Cherokee, walked into the room. You might not be sure if he was a Cherokee or some other kind of Indian. You might think he was a Latino or a Middle Easterner. But your first response wouldn't be to simply doubt him. He obviously looks like something out of the ordinary. The question would be what he was, not whether he was something.
Other than the above, the book doesn't make anything of Crow's Indianness. So it's kind of a mixed bag. He's in a modern rather than traditional role, but the role is somewhat stereotypical. Indian hitmen in thrillers and mysteries aren't that uncommon.
Anyway, Stranger In Paradise is an entertaining read. As implied above, it works because of the characterization more than the plot. Rob's rating: 8.0 of 10.
For more on Native-themed mysteries, see Longmire Mysteries to Become TV Series and Coel Wins Emeritus Award for Mysteries.