Tom Selleck returns as Paradise's anguished former Chief of Police, Jesse Stone, in his most gripping mystery yet. Cindy Van Aldan was like a daughter to Jesse. Now she's dead. Although all signs point to a suicidal drug overdose-a checkered history riddled with addiction, associations with homicidal mobsters and an involvement in prostitution-Jesse knows his friend better than that. This time it's personal, and Jesse will stop at nothing to avenge the lost innocence and subsequent death of the young girl he once mentored.
Though perhaps not as beloved as his Spenser novels, the series of books Robert B. Parker wrote about Jesse Stone, the depressed, alcoholic police chief of a small Massachusetts seaside town, earned him a similarly devoted following. CBS began adapting the novels as a vehicle for Tom Selleck in 2005, closely following Parker's formula and style, to the delight of many fans. Innocents Lost is the seventh in the intermittent TV-movie series (an eighth, Benefit of the Doubt, will appear in 2012) and the third that features an original Jesse Stone story (cowritten by Selleck) that is not directly based on a Parker novel. For those just being introduced to Jesse Stone, starting out well into the series with Innocents Lost may be slightly bewildering considering the many multiple plot threads that have carried through from the beginning. But the characters have a lot of depth from the get-go, especially Selleck's Stone, who we quickly discover has been forced out of his job as Paradise police chief and is not faring so well in the mental health department. Though the scenery of the fictional village is nothing but picturesque (Halifax, Nova Scotia, stands in for the rocky Atlantic fishing village of Paradise), the atmosphere is fairly gloomy throughout. Jesse is doing his best to continue his ascent from a depression and drinking problem that began years earlier after his divorce. But even though he's often quick with a quip and carries the charismatic appeal of Tom Selleck-ness wherever he goes, watching Innocents Lost is not the way to spend an evening if you're looking to cheer yourself up. Jesse is still friendly with his former cop colleagues (the excellent Kathy Baker and Kohl Sudduth), but not so much with the new chief, who's been installed primarily based on nepotism (his father-in-law is the president of the town council). He's also still doing some contract work for the Massachusetts State Police homicide squad and his pal Commander Healy (Stephen McHattie), is again palling around with the shady underworld boss Gino Fish (William Sadler), and is back talking to the grizzled psychotherapist Dr. Dix (William Devane). All these excellent supporting character actors add to the superb creative qualities of a story weaving two mysteries that Jesse becomes involved with: the suspicious death of a young girl he helped out a few years earlier, and the questionable guilt of a Boston murder suspect that Healy believes is being prosecuted in error. Jesse handily solves both cases, but the successes do not make him any happier. Neither does a casual affair with the gorgeous secretary of his pal and former nemesis Hasty Hathaway (Gloria Reuben and Saul Rubinek, both also first-rate). Even his loveable golden retriever Reggie can't snap him out of his depressive fog. There's not a lot of action, but there is a high level of dramatic integrity in the dialogue and character interaction that will make fans eager for more unpredictable exploits from Jesse Stone, both personally and professionally. --Ted Fry