The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 26, 2010

Phyllis Sessengood: Detectives drawn together through separate mysteries

“Split Image” by Robert B. Parker (compact disc audiobook)

In “Split Image,” Sunny Randall, a Boston private investigator, and Jesse Stone, police chief of Paradise, Mass., continue a relationship that began with the novel “Blue Screen.”

Sunny arrives in Paradise to look for teenager, Cheryl DeMarko. The teen’s wealthy parents think that she has joined the “Renewal,” a cult-like religious group, and they have hired Sunny to find the young woman.

The parents believe that the group is holding their girl against her will. However, as Sunny learns more about the parents, she wonders if the girl might be better off with the cult.

Meanwhile, Jesse has his own problems. There is trouble in Paradise when police officer “Suitcase” Simpson finds the body of a mob enforcer in an abandoned vehicle.

Jesse quickly connects the body to two gangsters who live next door to each other. The mobsters are married to identical twins that live in identical houses — thus the “split image.” The twins are so much alike that sometimes they even fool their own husbands.

Although the cases are not related, the two detectives are soon drawn together and their relationship progresses to a more serious level. The psychological element is evident as each visits their respective shrinks.

From previous novels, we know that Jesse is a functioning alcoholic trying to get over his ex-wife, Jenn. Sunny still has issues with her ex-husband, Richie.

Robert B. Parker’s mysteries are always fun, distinguished by their interplay of characters and engaging dialogue. “Split Image” contains clever, witty and sharp almost smart-alecky dialogue, likable characters, with a plot containing the mystery suspense element.

James Naughton deftly narrates this novel, providing each character his own voice. Sadly, Robert B. Parker died shortly before this novel was published. I, along with millions of devoted fans, will miss this great mystery writer.

“Nine Dragons” by Michael Connelly (compact disc audiobook)

The LAPD calls upon detective Harry Bosch to investigate a possible gang-related homicide of Asian liquor store owner John Li. Because Mr. Li did a favor for Harry years ago, Harry takes a personal interest in the case.

As the detective delves more deeply into the Fortune Liquors case, he learns that a Chinese gang, the Triads, have been extorting money from Mr. Li. After a Triad member is arrested, Harry receives a cell phone video of his daughter, Madeline.

Madeline lives in Hong Kong with his estranged wife Eleanor Wish, a former FBI agent. The video appears to be footage of Madeline being held hostage in Hong Kong and it carries the message that Harry must back off the case or she will be harmed.

Frantic to locate his daughter, Harry drops everything to fly to Hong Kong. Eleanor and her friend Sun Yee, the head of security at the casino where Eleanor works, meet Harry at the airport and the trio begin a desperate search for Madeline.

Despite being somewhat out of his element in Hong Kong, that does not stop Harry in the frantic quest of his daughter and her kidnappers. The city will never be the same as Harry wreaks his havoc, leaving several bodies in his wake.

Connelly takes his readers through the workings of crime investigation and a richly described tour of Hong Kong’s Kowloon section, Chinese for “nine dragons.” Readers are treated to a cameo appearance by Lincoln lawyer Mickey Haller.

Haller is Harry’s half-brother and has his own series of books, but I like the interaction between the two characters. Connelly keeps this fast-paced action thriller moving quickly and provides insights into a Bosch that readers have not seen before. Len Cariou is the narrator.