Robert B Parker was an award winning American author from Springfield, Massachusetts. His work falls mainly into the detective/mystery genre.
His most well-known book series focuses on a private detective called Spenser and includes 40 novels that have been adapted into a popular television show.
His other well-known book series is about an LAPD officer called Jesse Stone who relocates to a small town in New England. Robert B Parker studied at Boston University where he completed a Masters and a Ph.D. in English Literature.
He worked as a technical writer whilst studying, and then became a full-time professor. Alongside being a professor, he began to write his first novel.
When his fifth book was published, less than 10 years after completing his Ph.D., he gave up teaching to become a full-time writer. The Jesse Stone book series was written between 1997 and 2021 and includes 21 novels.
The books have been adapted into a series of nine movies made for television, starring Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone. Robert B Parker sadly passed away due to a heart attack in 2010 at age 77.
Nine of the 21 novels had been written by this point, and the series was then continued by Parker’s longtime friend Michael Brandman who wrote three more novels.
He then passed the mantle on to Reed Farrel Coleman who wrote 6 more novels in the series. The latest two books in the series were written by Mike Lupica.
About The Jesse Stone Books
Jesse Stone is a former minor league baseball player who was forced to change careers due to a shoulder injury. He became an LAPD officer and worked in the Robbery-Homicide division.
During a messy divorce from his wife, Jennifer, Jesse develops a drinking problem and is asked to leave the LAPD. Jesse interviews for the role of chief of police in a small New England town called Paradise.
He is intoxicated during the interview, but the president of the board is corrupt. He thinks that Jesse will be easy to control and manipulate, so gives him the job. Jesse is immediately thrown into the deep end and gets stuck in his cases.
Paradise is not the quiet small town that Jesse was expecting. He comes across triple homicide, murdering psychopaths, and even has a run-in with the Boston mob.
He needs to learn quickly who to trust and who to keep an eye on if he wants to keep the people of Paradise safe.
The book series follows Jesse as he goes about his day-to-day life as chief of police – investigating cases, navigating the town politics, and working alongside other officers.
It also delves into his personal life – his difficult relationship with his ex-wife, his struggle with alcoholism, and his friendship with Captain Healy, the State Police Homicide Commander.
At the beginning of the book series, Jesse Stone is 35 years old. With each novel, the reader learns more and more about Jesse’s past and why he behaves the way he does.
His character has to adjust to small-town life after living in LA, and this makes the books even more entertaining. The books are well-researched when it comes to police procedure and crime, which gives the reader an authentic experience.
The storylines are carefully thought out and keep you hooked as you wait for Jesse to solve the mystery. They are well-written, fast-paced, and exciting.
Jesse Stone Books In Order
This is the recommended reading order for the Jesse Stone books.
Night Passage is the first book in the series and shows readers how Jesse came to be in Paradise. He is pushed out of the LAPD due to his drinking problem and surprisingly lands a job as Chief of Police in Paradise.
Still reeling from his divorce and feeling out of his depth, he has to step up and establish himself as a person of authority to gain the respect of the locals.
There is a lot more crime than he was expecting, and he already has some dangerous enemies. Will he emerge a local hero or a failure? This is the first time that the readers meet Jesse.
It’s clear that he has a lot of emotional vulnerability underneath his tough exterior, which makes him immediately relatable. The more you learn about his pain and the things he has been through, the more emotionally invested you become in his character.
This keeps you even more hooked on the events of the book. It’s exciting and intriguing, and the perfect start to this fantastic book series.
- The story eases you in, but then delivers action-packed mystery
- Fans of the Spenser series might notice some similarities between the characters
Trouble In Paradise
The second installment of the Jesse Stone series is packed with excitement and nail-biting tension. Jesse is more established in his role as Chief of Police which is keeping him busy.
His personal life is also pretty hectic – he has started a new romance with Marcy Campbell, a realtor who lives on Stiles Island, but he still has unresolved feelings for Abbey Taylor, an attorney he was previously dating.
Meanwhile, his ex-wife is being held in Paradise prison for assault. Romantic trouble is the least of Jesse’s worries.
A dangerous man has put together a team of ex-cons to blow up the bridge that connects Stiles Island to Paradise and take over the island for themselves. On his team is his girlfriend, Faye, and an infamous man known as The Crow.
Or is his new life about to come crashing down around him? The stakes get even higher when Jesse realizes that both Macy and Abbey are directly in harm’s way- but can he keep them both safe?
- Jesse’s personal life and work life are thrown together in this story
- The plot feels a bit formulaic in places
Death In Paradise
Jesse is enjoying his life in Paradise and has joined the men’s softball team. One night, after a game, the team are relaxing in the parking lot and swapping stories over some beers.
Everything seems perfect until they hear a voice calling from the lake. A girl’s body has been found in the water.
Jesse’s experience in the Robbery and Homicide division at the LAPD enables him to quickly work out what has happened – the young woman was shot and dumped in the lake.
But who killed her? What was their motive? The only lead he has to go on is a ring on a gold chain around her neck. The more Jesse finds out about this woman’s life, the harder the case gets.
Her parents had disowned her and hadn’t bothered to report her missing. She had a taste for the party lifestyle and eventually ended up on the streets.
His search for the truth reveals how poorly treated she was, and the list of suspects seems to grow longer and longer.
- Alongside unraveling the mystery of this woman’s death, Jesse is also discovering some hard truths about his own life too
- Readers may start to get frustrated with Jenn’s character and her involvement in the series
In this installment of the Jesse Stone series, there is a serial killer on the loose in Paradise. When bodies keep turning up with little explanation, Jesse knows it is the work of a serial killer.
But the victims seem random, and their deaths are all different. There must be a pattern, something he has missed, but will he solve the mystery in time to stop any more innocent lives from being taken?
When a small town is plagued by a serial killer it quickly becomes a very big deal. The local officials are breathing down Jesse’s neck and the media are having a field day.
Jesse is already in hot water in his personal life, and this extra pressure at work is sending him over the edge. Will he keep it together long enough to solve the case?
- There are lots of unexpected twists and turns in this book that will keep you on the edge of your seat
- You may find yourself becoming frustrated with Jesse for the way he is handling his personal life
Paradise is a picture-perfect coastal town, but now and again the image is marred by a dark deed. When a woman’s body washes up on the beach, already starting to decompose, identifying her is quite a challenge.
Jesse manages to confirm that she was Florence Horvath, a Florida heiress who was recently divorced. As Jesse learns more about Florence, it becomes clear that she had a colorful life.
She was known for her deviant sexual activity and was a willing participant in a sex tape. To figure out why she was killed, Jesse needs to fit the puzzle pieces of her life together, but that’s tough to do when no one is talking.
The crew of Florence’s luxury yacht currently moored in Paradise Harbor are no help, and her family seems suspiciously unaffected by her murder.
- This is a great mystery that is very gripping
Jesse Stone finds himself working his most high-profile case yet when the body of a talk show host is found hanging from a tree on the edge of Paradise. The victim, Walton Weeks, was known for his controversial opinions and had many enemies.
But getting any work done seems impossible with local officials sticking their noses in and the national media scrutinizing Jesse’s every move. The pressure mounts even higher when a second body is discovered less than a week later.
The medical examiner reveals that the two deaths are connected, and the case becomes even more emotionally charged. The trouble is, all Jesse’s leads are going cold and there are no clear suspects.
The families of the victims are unwilling to help, and Jesse hits a dead end. Will he be able to get to the bottom of this double homicide? Or will the whole country watch him fail?
Whoever the killer is, they had a deeply personal motive which makes the situation highly charged.
The story also demonstrates the pressure that detectives are under when they take on a high-profile case, and how the media can end up interfering with an investigation or becoming an obstacle.
- One of the great things about this book is how Jesse’s struggle with the case is depicted. He is an experienced cop, but even he is disturbed by the gruesome nature of the murders
- There is a lot of dialogue which is sometimes difficult to follow
Stranger In Paradise
Jesse comes face to face with an old enemy in this mystery novel. The Crow has returned, but this time he is alone. Two years ago, when the Crow was part of a criminal group plotting to blow up the Stiles Island bridge, he let the hostages go free.
This was because of his personal principles that prevent him from killing women. Crow escaped with enough money to disappear and never do another job again – so why has he returned to Paradise? Why does he want to speak to Jesse Stone?
And why has he agreed to kidnap a woman and her young daughter? The answers to these questions take Jesse by surprise and send him down an unexpected path. This time, doing the right thing might put him on the wrong side of the law.
Will Jesse and the Crow be able to put aside their differences to save an innocent life? And what if the life they are saving isn’t quite so innocent?
- This book is a nice change of pace from the rest of the series. It puts Jesse in a different set of circumstances and presents him with a new challenge
- This book seems a little out of place with the rest of the series
Night And Day
In this novel, Jesse Stone has two challenging situations to deal with at work. The Principal of the local high school is accused of impropriety when she is caught ‘inspecting’ the undergarments of the female pupils in the locker room.
Jesse is keen to get the students the justice they deserve, but the Principal’s attorney husband is making that a very difficult task. Meanwhile, the female citizens of Paradise are facing a different kind of threat.
A strange voyeur has taken to peering through windows and invading their privacy, making them feel unsafe in their own homes. But it is only so long before watching isn’t enough. Jesse must track him down before the situation escalates too far.
- This book explores the psychology behind some of the crimes that people commit, which makes it a very interesting read. Jesse’s narrative is compelling, and he makes a lot of progress in terms of his own soul-searching
- The cases Jesse is working on aren’t as interesting in this book
Split Image was the last Jesse Stone book to be written by Robert B Parker. Jesse Stone is keeping tabs on two retired gangsters, and what began as observation turns into a full-blown investigation when one of them turns up dead.
He was shot in the head, the main suspect is his wife. This is a crossover story between Jesse Stone, and another character created by Robert B Parker called Sunny Randall. Sunny is a cop turned private investigator in Boston.
She is hired by a family to rescue their 18 year old daughter from a religious cult. As she looks into the case, she struggles to figure out the family’s intentions.
- Fans will enjoy the crossover between Jesse and Sunny’s stories
- This is quite a steamy book and some of the romance detracts from the investigation
Killing The Blues
This book is an exciting addition to the Jesse Stone series. The coastal town of Paradise has a new event planner who is helping them prepare for the busy tourist season.
Alex Richardson catches Jesse’s eye, and the two of them begin a steamy affair in the summer sun. Meanwhile, a string of car thefts seems like an easy case to solve, but Jesse soon learns that there is more going on than he first thought.
The thefts are escalating from theft to arson, to murder, and the gang responsible has some concerning ties to a much wider crime problem. The heat builds as an old enemy of Jesse’s is released from prison and comes looking for revenge.
- The way that the tension builds in this story is very exciting. Jesse really feels the pressure and finds himself acting out of character, going against the due process to try and get results
- This is the first book not written by Parker and the style differences are a little jarring
Fool Me Twice
After the busy Summer season, Fall is usually a quiet time of year in the small coastal town of Paradise. But this Fall, Paradise is being taken over by Hollywood.
A movie company has descended on the town, complete with a cast, crew, a beautiful movie producer, and a troubled young star.
Jesse finds himself distracted by the attractive producer, but soon gets thrown into a case when the leading lady becomes the subject of a death threat.
She thinks it is the work of her estranged husband, who is dangerously jealous, but sometimes your enemy is someone you would never have expected.
- The writing style is a big improvement on the previous book
- Jesse’s focus seems to be on the wrong case in this book
Damned If You Do
When the body of a young woman is found on the bed of a beachfront motel room, defiled, nobody knows who she is. Jesse’s usual contacts are coming up short, and she remains a nameless victim.
But she didn’t deserve to be killed, and Jesse is determined to find whoever did it. As Jesse digs deeper for clues, he unknowingly puts himself in the middle of a turf war between two pimps.
Thomas Walker and Fat Boy Nelly have two things in common – they are both ruthless, and they are both trying to claim the same woman. Jesse will need to find a solution that doesn’t involve bloodshed, but is that possible?
- This is an excellent installment of the series with all of the pace and excitement that you would expect from a Jesse Stone novel
- The police brutality seems out of touch with when the novel was written
This story takes Jesse Stone to New York, where he must face some unresolved issues from his past. His baseball career was unexpectedly cut short due to a shoulder injury, so when he is invited to a team reunion in New York City the event is bittersweet.
He sees what his life could have been like, and the missed opportunity. But a failed baseball career isn’t the only regret that Jesse has to come to terms with on his trip. His ex-girlfriend, Kaya, a beautiful temptress, was the one that got away.
Now she is married to one of Jesse’s former teammates. Jesse’s trip is cut short by the development of a serious case in Paradise. A woman is found murdered and her boyfriend is missing, presumed kidnapped.
His family are very influential, and the police need to be seen to be doing everything possible to track him down.
- Jesse’s past is deeply connected to a current case which is exciting
- Some of the dialogue feels a little forced and awkward
The Devil Wins
A heavy storm unearths old crimes in this heart-racing Jesse Stone story. After a bad storm, a man’s body is discovered wrapped in tarpaulin amongst the rubble of an abandoned factory building.
He has only been dead for a couple of hours. A few feet away, the skeletons of two teenage girls who went missing 25 years ago are found.
Their disappearance was long before Jesse arrived in Paradise, but it was a mystery that shook the town and was never solved. The mother of one of the girls returns to Paradise in order to bury the body, but is murdered before she gets the chance.
There are now four bodies – two old and two fresh – and it is up to Jesse to figure out how they are all connected and track down the killer.
- The storyline takes Jesse on a dark and intriguing journey
- This book is not as witty as the Parker novels
Debt To Pay
Jesse is caught in a web of complicated personal relationships. His ex-wife is about to get re-married, and his relationship with FBI agent Diana Evans is on the rocks.
The only thing going smoothly is work, with a bout of vandalism being the biggest unsolved case in Paradise. But that is about to change.
A prominent member of the Boston mob is murdered, and Jesse is once again thrown into the depths of a complex homicide case.
The gruesome murder appears to be the work of the deadly assassin Mr. Peepers, a psychotic killer that Jesse has come up against before. Mr. Peepers wants revenge on Jesse and is willing to get personal.
Jesse and his girlfriend must work together to protect Jesse’s ex-wife from Mr. Peepers, which involves attending her wedding in Dallas. But when will he strike? And will Jesse and Diana be able to stop him? Or will Jesse’s debt be paid with bloodshed?
- The plot is interesting and fast-paced which makes this book an exciting read
- Some of the characters are not very well developed
The Hangman’s Sonnet
Jesse is still processing the harrowing events of his showdown with Mr. Peepers, which resulted in Diana’s tragic death. He doesn’t have long to recover, as he is soon presented with an enticing case.
Terry Jester is a once-famous folk singer turned recluse. He withdrew from society 40 years ago after a tape recording of his greatest piece, The Hangman’s Sonnet, was stolen.
He is resurfacing to attend a gala being held in honor of his 75th birthday. Meanwhile, the home of an elderly Paradise resident is ransacked by thieves. She is killed during the ordeal, but what were they looking for?
And how is she connected to Terry Jester’s missing tape recording? As Jesse begins to unravel the strings tying these two events together, more lives are lost and he comes across obstacles in the form of hostile politicians.
To make progress on the case he will have to bend his morals and team up with Vinnie Morris, a Boston mobster with a bad reputation. He will also cross paths with Spenser, a Boston PI (one of Robert B Parker’s other characters).
- The book was well-paced with an interesting plot and juicy investigation
- The ending was a bit of let down compared to the rest of the book
After spending some time in rehab, Jesse Stone is back on the job. His recovery is not going to be smooth sailing, as Paradise becomes the setting for a string of hateful crimes that appear to have racial motivations.
An African American woman is murdered and a black police officer is framed for a crime she didn’t commit. Jesse and his team work hard to uncover the truth and discover a malevolent plot that extends far beyond what they could have imagined.
Meanwhile, a young man with an attitude problem arrives in Paradise. Jesse feels strangely drawn to him and decides to take him under his wing. But what Jesse discovered about his new acquaintance changes his life in unexpected ways.
- This is a quick read and is true to Jesse Stone’s character
- There was not as much tension in this book compared to others in the series
The Bitterest Pill
Even the quiet town of Paradise isn’t beyond the reach of the opioid epidemic. This becomes all too clear when one of the cheerleaders in the high school dies of a suspected heroin overdose.
Paradise High School seems to be the focal point of Jesse’s investigation, and he is determined to follow the supply chain all the way to the top. But with everyone looking out for their own interests, ranks begin to close.
Jesse comes up against uncooperative teachers, parents, administrators, and students too afraid to tell the truth. Will he be able to expose the villains? How far are the bad guys willing to go to protect their lucrative business?
- This is a well-paced book with an exciting storyline
- Some of the recognizable features of a Jesse Stone novel are missing from this book
When a body is pulled from the lake, Jesse is the only one who seems to recognize the victim. The man attended the same AA meeting as Jesse the night before but has otherwise not been seen around town.
He has no ID and doesn’t match the description of any missing persons in the nearby towns. His murder appears to be an almost unsolvable mystery. Almost…
A taxi driver who remembers dropping the victim off is the only lead, and it seems the stranger’s death is connected to the wealthiest family in Paradise. Meanwhile, Jesse’s house is attacked by a shower of gunfire.
He survives the ordeal, but it is clear that someone is after him. When fellow Paradise police officers are targeted, it seems that Jesse and his colleagues are facing a shared enemy.
- The plotline brings in some old enemies which is a great twist
- Jesse’s character seems to be losing his edge as he gets close to the end of the series
The town of Paradise is shocked and saddened by the suicide of their beloved Mayor. Jesse is not convinced that the Mayor killed himself, especially as his body was discovered on a piece of prime real estate caught up in a contentious dispute.
Two developers are in a war over the rights to the land, and one of them has backup in the form of The Crow, a hitman who Jesse has come across before.
Whilst the Paradise town council debate over whether they will vote to allow a new development to be built, it becomes clear that the Mayor was an obstacle preventing a powerful person from getting their own way.
- Jesse’s character seems more revitalized and vibrant in this book
- The plot points were a little dry and safe compared to other books in the series
When two Paradise residents are murdered in short succession, Jesse finds himself stretched a little thin.
One of the cases is deeply personal – the nephew of a friend and colleague, and star of the high school baseball team, was found dead at the bottom of the bluff.
The other case is political – former Paradise Chief of Police Charlie Farrell was murdered after beginning an investigation into scam phone calls. Can Jesse solve both murders in time to prevent the loss of another innocent life?
- This is an enjoyable read to finish off the series
- The ending doesn’t seem very well-rounded
The Jesse Stone book series was written and published in chronological order. This is the recommended reading order for the books as it gives you the best flow in terms of story and character development.
Whilst each book focuses on a different case or set of cases, there are recurring characters and overarching themes. This means it is best to read the books in order so you have a full understanding of what is going on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about the Jesse Stone books.
Do You Have To Read The Jesse Stone Books In Order?
It is best to read the Jesse Stone book series in chronological order as it will be much easier to keep track of the different characters and their backstories. The books were written and published in chronological order.
Which Jesse Stone Book Is Best?
The first book in the series. Night Passage is very popular. Fans also reacted very positively to Mike Lupica’s novels – Fool’s Paradise and Stone’s Throw.
Are The Movies True To The Books?
Overall, fans of the book series say that the movie adaptations are a true representation of the character and the stories. Jesse Stone is older in the movies, and the order of events is slightly different, but all of the important elements are there.
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