DEAD IN THE WATER by Stuart Woods
Kirkus Star


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Woods bounces back from the doldrums of his last few formula thrillers in this tidy did-she-do-it puzzler, nicely stirred by Caribbean breezes. When the 45-foot yacht Expansive puts into the island paradise of St. Marks, the only thing missing is the skipper, mystery novelist Paul Manning, who, his wife Allison tearfully tells the authorities, suffered a fatal heart attack while she watched helplessly from high atop a mast, and afterward he had to be buried at sea. The story's good enough for the coroner's inquest, but not for Sir Winston Sutherland, the ambitious Minister of Justice, who thinks a high-profile conviction might be just the thing to vault him into the aging Prime Minister's post. Luckily for Allison, she has just the credentials (blond hair, killer hod, boundless sexual stamina) to secure for herself the premier legal representation on St. Marks: vacationing New York lawyer Stone Barrington (Dirt, 1996, etc.), whose appetite for adventure, etc., has been whetted by the unexpected absence of his live-in girlfriend Arrington. It's a case that suits Woods's talent for streamlined, unnuanced narrative down to the shoreline. With no witnesses besides Allison--now enjoying a cool $12 million payoff from provident Paul's insurance--and virtually no physical evidence showing how (or even whether) Paul met his death, Stone doesn't have to bother arguing the facts; all he has to do is orchestrate a massive p.r. campaign designed to impress on the government what a disaster a conviction would be for St. Marks's crucial tourist industry--while trying to find some wiggle room in the island's draconian trial law, which pretty much assumes that the accused is guilty and that the real crime would be keeping the jury past dinnertime. Trying to make this neat, utterly unsurprising tale--Woods's best since L.A. Times (1993)--last more than one sitting would be like staying up all night nursing a Godiva truffle.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: HarperCollins