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The Blue Hour Hardcover – Large Print, October 1, 1999
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Hardcover, Large Print
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- Publisher : Thorndike Pr (October 1, 1999)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 597 pages
- ISBN-10 : 078622164X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0786221646
- Item Weight : 1.5 pounds
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.25 x 8.5 inches
- Customer Reviews:
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My Review Five Stars*****
In the wee hours of this morning I reluctantly finished reading the first installment of Parker's trilogy of crime fiction featuring Merci Rayburn. I say "reluctantly" because I was enjoying this novel so much I just hated for it to end.
I purchased this book in November 2018, thus it had been an unread selection on my Kindle for nearly a year. WHERE SERPENTS LIE (1998) had been my first introduction to the works of T. Jefferson Parker. It was listed in "SERIAL KILLER NOVELS: TEN OF THE BEST" on Crime Fiction Lover.com. I found the book to be incredibly dark and disturbing, relentlessly riveting, and right up my alley. I hit the "Buy" button on THE BLUE HOUR with no hesitation, noting that it was originally published in 1999, the year following WHERE SERPENTS LIE.
It was nearing Christmas last year when I noted a more recent selection by T. Jefferson Parker on my PRIME Rental options. It was a series kickoff for his PI Roland Ford character. I saw the endorsement by Lisa Gardner on the cover ("Mesmerizing and haunting"). Number one, I used to love the writing of Lisa Gardner. Number two, her sentiments pretty much summed up how I felt about WHERE SERPENTS LIE. Number three, I made the leap and got my hands on THE ROOM OF WHITE FIRE all eager to experience the thrill of Parker's prose once again. I started the novel only to be saddened when I found that it was a hit piece and more far left propaganda than novel.
The background of my exposure to this remarkably talented writer seemed to me to have a place in this book review. Now you know why that THE BLUE HOUR sat lonely and shunned on my virtual bookshelf for such a long time. I am not really sure why I read that first page... (I told myself later that it was because WHERE SERPENTS LIE (1998) and THE BLUE HOUR (1999) were both written in the late '90s and thus might be free of the author's politics).
THE BLUE HOUR is literally a novel that I am unlikely to ever forget irrespective of the passage of time. Having been an avid reader all my life I truly am not sure why that another book "popped into my head" after I read the last page. In the early '80s I bought a stack of used paperbacks with the covers ripped off. A novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author Lawrence Sanders was among these second-hand paperbacks, and it was titled THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (1973). Sanders was what readers refer to now as a "new-to-me author". This novel has been dubbed "The most incredibly popular suspense thriller ever written ... the unforgettable story of ruthless killer with a special hatred for women, and the dedicated cop who vows to track him down ..." Bear in mind that this book was written before the term "serial killer" was ever coined by Robert Ressler and long before Clarice Starling ever aspired to be accepted into the FBI's behavioral science unit dedicated to the profiling and catching of serial murderers. THE FIRST DEADLY SIN even contained erroneous assumptions accepted as fact about what were termed "stranger killings" in the '60s and into the '70s. That said, THE FIRST DEADLY SIN was still the most outstanding "police procedural novel" that I had ever read at that time. You have to bear in mind that the solitary dogged detective who was methodically and meticulously tracking the (serial killer) in the 1973 classic was handicapped by mind-numbing hours of manually sifting through mountains of paperwork (not to mention an absence of manpower). Computer technology was after all in its infancy and forensic science as we know it today bore little resemblance to what it had become by the dawn of the millennium. In contrast, THE BLUE HOUR (1999) features two dedicated detectives who are just as compellingly deliberate, prodding, and methodical in their examination and follow up of every single shred of evidence that was available to them. I daresay that it too would stand up against any currently penned police procedural written after its time which is roughly a decade and a half ago.
BUT---it was not just the fact THE BLUE HOUR was another example of what is a "timeless" police procedural that transcends the police practices and limitations of its place in crime fiction history. NO---it was Parker's creation of a fictional serial killer, sexual sadist who was so authentic, so convincingly real, that when I got into my car at night, dropped down into the driver's seat I actually felt a chill go down by spine. I could all too easily imagine that I was smelling a sweetish fragrance and feeling a breath against my face. The serial murderer in Sanders' 1973 novel THE FIRST DEADLY SIN also painted a believable flesh and blood sociopathic serial killer who stalked the streets. The novel "pulled no punches" in that it was sexually explicit, explored categories of sexual deviancy that evened managed to combine generally considered taboo topics. His writing style is perhaps unparalleled today in that his prose is so memorable that he was able to paint such vivid scenes because of his command and love of the English language that I could visualize the narrative as clearly as seeing it on a TV screen. Daniel Blank, the serial murderer, had a feel of authenticity as absolute as Hannibal Lector from the mind of Thomas Harris. The ending of the book was dark and haunting.
This was the second point that the two novels, the first written nearly half a century ago, and the second two decades ago had in common. Both Sanders and Parker wrote convincingly about the reality of police procedurals, and both authors created flesh and blood serial killers whose twisted psyches were fleshed out and believable. I would go out on a limb (but feel safe) in saying that Parker is as skilled in the genre of police procedurals as the highly and widely acclaimed Michael Connelly. Prior to reading THE BLUE HOUR I must admit that when I heard the term "gritty police procedural" I thought of the no author in the same orbit as Connelly (I'm a huge fan of his). Similarly, Thomas Harris is generally considered to be the only true master of creating fictional serial killers who are authentic and genuinely make readers feel the chill. I will say right now that the only author I can think of to compare with Parker's expertise as an author in crafting a genuinely original and frighteningly serial killer IS Thomas Harris.
I want to add one more dimension to my shameless praise and love for THE BLUE HOUR. It isn't JUST an unbelievably outstanding serial killer thriller AND a downright gritty, down to the wire police procedural that excels in every way...it is ALSO an incredibly powerful drama and character study of two diametrically different detectives, a brash young beautiful female detective and a 67-year-old veteran cop who has pretty much seen it all and done it all, handed a death warrant after a routine physical exam discloses lung cancer. It is an in-depth character study of both protagonists, and an unlikely love story between a polar opposite duo, one who is still beginning, and the other is in the process of ending. I would be remiss if I did not also mention that THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (1973) by Sanders was ALSO much more than serial killer thriller and police procedural. It was the underlining and riveting tale of the seduction of pride that transformed one man into a merciless murderer and his counterpart into a chilling predator with a badge but without conscience.
Finally, after nearly half a century THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (1973) is still a classic and transcends its era. Its beautiful prose style is truly incredible and makes an indelible impression. It's already been two decades since THE BLUE HOUR (1999) was published, but with the passage of another three decades, editorials will document that it, too, easily transcends its era and remains a crime fiction classic. Needless to say, I immediately purchased the other two novels in the Merci Rayburn trilogy (RED LIGHT and BLACK WATER, 2000 and 2002 respectively).
I bought my first Kindle Paperwhite back in 2014 and the first thing I did was to buy all of the books that I remembered reading in my past that left an indelible impression on me. I bought and re-read THE FIRST DEADLY SIN (1973). THE BLUE HOUR (1999) has been added to that virtual bookshelf in my memory that is dedicated to the short list of unforgettable novels that I will undoubtedly not only read again, but use as bars of excellence by which I measure all other novels I read in the same genres.
This isn't the first of Parker's many books; he's a rather prolific author who has won the Edgar Award for Best Novel more than once. Nor is it the first featuring Orange County, California, detective Merci Rayborn. The awards - and high ratings from other readers - were encouraging, but the latter gave me pause. Since I've never read any of the others, would this one be enjoyable on its own?
Simply put, yes. In fact, it's one of the best "finds" I've made when it comes to downloaded freebies (as I write this, it's going for only $2.99; but even at the list price of $7.99, it's a great deal). Whether I'd read any others was a non-issue; and the plot hooked me totally within the first chapter. Here, semi-retired homicide officer Tim Hess is paired with the exceptionally career-focused Rayborn to catch a serial killer who's been kidnapping young women and doing almost unspeakable things to their bodies. But not only does Hess have to get along with the stubborn, ambitious and not particularly likable partner, he must deal with a serious issue of his own - lung cancer that's already taken much of one lung and forced him to undergo painful chemotherapy.
Their interaction plays almost as big a role here as the crimes and the chase, making for a story that kept me interested all the way through. I will say I had a few issues with the ending itself (which I can't explain without ruining the book for others), but it does set the scene for a bit of a different direction on future books in the series. All told, it was a very enjoyable experience - and now I have an addition to my must-read author list.