IRON ORCHID by Stuart Woods


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Now that she’s exhausted the criminal permutations of Orchid Beach (Fla.) and Stone Barrington’s New York City (Reckless Abandon, 2004), police chief Holly Barker enlists in Woods’s third franchise: fighting President Will Lee’s nemesis, a political assassin who’s crazy like a fox.

Teddy Fay is on the loose again. Run to earth by government agents wise to his scheme to execute right-wing politicians (Capital Crimes, 2003), he’s faked his death, gone to earth in the Big Apple and set up shop with a new mission: killing his nation’s enemies. Holly, who’s quit her Orchid Beach gig to join the CIA, has her hands full fooling the Agency’s polygraph experts about the $5.76 million she just stashed in the Caymans and standing up to a fight instructor who implies that she’s a lesbian. She finds out about Teddy only after he blows up Iranian terrorist Ali Hakim and her trainee group is improbably dismissed from class several weeks early and packed off to New York. There follows a series of cat-and-cat encounters in which Teddy, in heavy disguise, keeps accosting Holly, who keeps recognizing him moments after it’s too late to catch him. Holly gets her ashes hauled once by Stone, and Teddy several times by Irene Foster, his inside source in the CIA, while they’re waiting for the next Middle East assassin or spy to meet his quietus. The real drama here, however, is the complete absence of anything like narrative development. Woods has borrowed from Walt Disney a form of mutually reinforcing franchise advertising whereby the only thing that happens in each installment is a series of plugs for all the others. The non-conclusion hints broadly that Holly and Teddy could go on chasing each other forever.

A sitcom approach to international intrigue in which paper dolls from Woods’s previous work keep slipping into new outfits as insubstantial as they are.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2005
ISBN: 0-399-15325-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2005


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