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Momma Says to Read

Avid reader/reviewer and editor. I don't pull punches when I review, love it or hate it, you get what I think.

Jesse Stone #18

Robert B. Parker's The Bitterest Pill - Reed Farrel Coleman

I've loved Jesse Stone's laid-back attitude, at least until it's time to be not so laid back, for years. I was introduced to him first in the movies with Tom Selleck, which led me to the books, and I was forever hooked. Jesse's story continues through the words of Reed Farrel Coleman, and I love that he holds true to the wonderful character first brought to life by Parker. There is one big difference, Jesse's sober now and trying to remain so. I realize that Jesse's sobriety is a source of contention for some, but I don't see it that way. For me, a character needs to continue to grow and evolve, and an honest effort at sobriety seems like a natural progression for the character.
I missed the last book in the series, so the addition of Jesse's son was new to me. That's where this book first got a little personal for me. I grew up in a situation very similar to Cole's, except I was older than Cole by the time I met my father. So, I'm always interested in how these situations play out on the page. Based on my own experiences, the interactions between Cole and Jesse ring true. They're still getting to know each other, and Cole is still learning to trust Jesse as well as learning that everything he thought he knew wasn't exactly how things were. I liked the progression for the father and son, and I enjoyed the addition of Cole's character.
The Bitterest Pill tackles the growing drug problem, specifically the opioid crisis and how it gets a hold on small towns everywhere. The web of players on that side of things was complex and held my interest as well as kept me guessing about a particular player in the game. There are red herrings, and there's also more than one possibility for who it could be. And here I will admit that I was wrong. I had my guesses, and while this one didn't exactly come out of nowhere, that person wasn't even on my radar. Of course, we get plenty of Suit and some of Molly as the case moves forward as well as Jesse relying on some help from a known criminal, which, again, rings true to the character.
In addition to a solid mystery and some page time with some series favorites, Coleman gives us a touch of romance for our favorite police chief. One that comes with some migivings, and we all know Jesse's penchant for wanting answers. I won't go into details on that so as not to give spoilers, but I felt like things happened the only way they could have given the circumstances.
In the end, there were a lot of players in this deadly game as the opioid crisis hits Paradise with a vengeance, and the story moves along with a steadily rising tension that explodes into an edge of your seat conclusion. However, I will add that when you think the dust has settled on this particular addition to the Jesse Stone series, it really hasn't. There's a bit more to the story. I don't know if there's another Jesse Stone book planned, but I sincerely hope so, and I certainly recommend this one.