Whatever happy years Ed Eagle may have enjoyed after marrying Barbara Kennerly (Santa Fe Rules, 1992) vanished the moment he woke up on his 50th birthday to find that she’d cleaned him out and taken a powder.
What does Santa Fe’s top trial attorney do when he learns that his wife’s vamoosed with four million of his favorite dollars? Call out reinforcements, that’s what. After he’s done what he can to freeze the assets Barbara’s been busily transferring to offshore accounts, Ed gets Cupie Dalton, ex-LAPD, to follow her to Mexico City. When Barbara plugs Cupie while he’s trying to put her on the phone with her beloved hubby, Ed digs deeper and comes up with Vittorio, an Apache shamus he thinks can scare Barbara into signing her name to six blank sheets of paper. And so the chase is on, with every character, as usual with Woods, acting exactly the same in every situation. Since the situations involve constant attempts to outguess, outwit and betray each other, however, the story develops an agreeable comic rhythm. And that also goes for a subplot that kicks in when Ed, back home in Santa Fe, is assigned the defense of Joe Big Bear, an alleged triple killer whose alibi witnesses sound so convincing that Ed can’t imagine why he’s still in jail. Like Cupie’s discovery of Barbara, Ed’s successful defense of Big Bear is only the opening move in a lightning-fast game marked by a hundred featherweight twists. Without ever making you care about any of these people or creating any complications that last more than a few chapters, Woods keeps them all moving smartly around the playing board like so many checkers.
The result, shorn of the franchise cheerleading that’s sunk Stone Barrington’s latest adventures (Dark Harbor, 2006 etc.) in stagnant self-approbation, is Woods’s most entertaining tale in years.