T Jefferson Parker was the guy whose books always got in my way while looking for Robert Parker's Spenser series. For some reason, I always resented him for sharing a name with one of my favorite authors and never picked up his books.
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Then I grabbed The Blue Hour. The paperback was full of winning blurbs, and my wife said, "I heard about that one on the radio. Sounded pretty good."
Guess what. It was.
The Blue Hour is the story of two cops. Tim Hess is a partially retired lifetime cop in his 60s who is battling life-threatening lung cancer. Merci Rayborn is an up and coming superstar who becomes his partner. They are paired together to track down the Purse Snatcher, a serial killer who stalks his victims and then guts them like a deer, leaving the police with only blood and internal organs for evidence.
It seems as though there is a glut of serial killer books these days. For some writers, it seems to be a genre all its own. In the few short years it has gone from being novel to being tiresome. Fortunately, T Jefferson Parker makes it fresh by developing his characters and exploring their investigation instead of page upon page devoted to psychobabble written from the killer's perspective. Hess is reexamining his life, his failed marriages, the way life what he wanted in life never seemed to coincide with his opportunities at the time. As he is approaching the twilight of his career (and maybe his life), Hess is asked to babysit the young Merci Rayborn, something he is clearly not willing to do, nor does he see it as necessary. As the book progresses, the two become more involved professionally and emotionally. This leads to some of the books strongest scenes, as the young woman deals tenderly with a man old enough to be her father, but inspirational enough to make her want him as a lover. As the two work together, they learn from each other and play off each others ideas. Hess is worried that the tolls of age and his cancer are dulling his instincts. Rayborn comes on confident and strong but reveals a self doubt about her career and her future. Together they make an appealing pair.
The crime story is, of course, gripping. The grotesque methods of the killer are contrasted with a parallel story of a rapist named Colesceau who has been chemically treated to curb his desires. This man becomes a suspect in the case and Parker actually makes you feel empathy for this unsympathetic character as he is crucified by the public because of his criminal history. Colesceau is a complex character shaped by an overbearing mom and constantly at odds with his desire to do harm.
T Jefferson Parker has done some nice research in the book and you get to know more about death and dying than you'll probably ever want to learn. The Blue Hour is a fascinating read that rises above the escapism fantasies of my beloved Robert Parker. I look forward to reading his newest book, Red Light.
WARNING! DO NOT READ THE DUST JACKET FOR RED LIGHT IF YOU PLAN ON READING THE BLUE HOUR!
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