The fifth TV movie based on Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone opens with Stone helping State Police Capt. Healy (Stephen McHattie) with a stakeout that ends with them both shot. Healy is wounded more severely than Jesse, and for a while it isn’t clear he’ll survive. A member of Paradise’s town council council comes down on Jesse for moonlighting and threatens to suspend him. Jesse goes after the shooter anyway.

The main plot involves a woman (Camryn Manheim) who has come to Paradise from New Mexico looking for her son, kidnapped five years earlier. While Jesse isn’t too hopeful about finding the boy, he lets Officer Rose Gammon (Kathy Baker) pursue the case.

Thin Ice is the first Stone movie not based on an existing Parker title, but from the beginning (2005’s Stone Cold), the movies have taken darker twists than the novels. Parker’s books tend to wrap up neatly, with no significant continuing arcs. Meanwhile in the movies, Jesse’s protege Suitcase Simpson (Kohl Sudduth) fell into a coma after a shootout, and though he has returned to duty, he may never be his old self again.

Similarly, Thin Ice doesn’t end well for Jesse. He discovers what became of the kidnapped boy too late to do anything about it. The town council follows through on its threat to suspend him. It’s not at all what Parker would write, but it left me more curious than any of Parker’s series work the past five years. Many critics, myself included, have said Tom Selleck has come to own the role of Jesse Stone, though he is twenty-five years older than the Stone of the books. Thin Ice proves his performance and a screenwriter’s grasp of the rhythm of Parker’s prose are enough to carry a movie.

Where might future Stone movies go from here? Since the cast has developed such chemistry, I’d wager the next movie (the nearly completed Jesse Stone: No Remorse) has Jesse working with the rest of the Paradise police force officially or unofficially. Beyond that, I think Jesse will continue to battle his drinking problem. The spirit of Parker’s character is his quiet determination to see justice done despite his personal problems. So long as things never come easy for Jesse, I’ll keep watching.

Gerald So
For more of Gerald’s thoughts and observations, check out his blog: If you want to know about my Life…

Read Gerald’s review of JESSE STONE: SEA CHANGE.