ORCHID BEACH by Stuart Woods


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Lawyer/cop/shamus/adventurer Stone Barrington chronicler Woods gives his swaggering hero and any Stone-weary readers a welcome break—though the result is a so-so suspenser with a distaff paragon just as deadly and insubstantial as the male. What can you do with a female hero that you can’t do with a man? She can get threatened and bullied by troglodyte guys; she can have a discreet romance that reminds you how vulnerable she is; she can get assaulted by a rapist; she can sue for sexual harassment. Woods obligingly works in every one of these episodes, starting with the lawsuit, which is doomed to failure because Major Holly Barker’s harasser, a West Point grad, is in so tight with the Army brass that she jumps at the chance to resign her commission and take a job as Deputy Chief under her dad’s old pal Chet Marley, of Florida’s Orchid Beach. Before she can even introduce herself to the other (male) officers, though, the Chief is gunned down, presumably by the same person or persons who grabbed his shotgun, drove out to the house of his best friend, dog trainer Hank Doherty, and settled his hash too. The only survivor is Hank’s wonder dog Daisy (imagine Lassie able to fetch Timmy a Heineken), a real bitch Holly is proud to take as a role model. And she’ll need the toughest model she can get, because Woods, uncomfortable with the constraints of the whodunit formula, soon directs Holly’s attention to outsized enemies both without (a gated community on the fringes of Orchid Beach that’s exclusive, private, and armed to the teeth) and within (dark hints of a mole within Holly’s department). Before many suns have set on Holly and her true love, and all those other girls’-only plot devices have kicked in, she’ll be joining the FBI in a full-scale assault on an upscale Waco that leaves no Stone untopped. Middling for Woods’s checkered output: not as glamorously nasty as L.A. Times (1993) or as fleet as Dead in the Water (1997), but not as dopey as this year’s Swimming to Catalina either (p. 439).

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-019181-3
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1998


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