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Even though Stone Barrington is back from the Caribbean (Dead in the Water, 1997), the debonair attorney-adventurer seems to spend half his time, as the title indicates, in the water—though mostly, like the book, treading water or plain floundering. A panicked call from movie star Vance Calder, who married Stone’s longtime lover Arrington Carter three months ago, tells Stone that Arrington has disappeared and begs him for help. But by the time Centurion Studios’ private jet lands Stone in La-La Land, Vance is singing another tune: Arrington’s fine, she’s just overwhelmed by her pregnancy, she’s gone away to think things over, she’s phoning Vance every day. The first, vastly more entertaining half of the resulting tale is nothing more than a series of artless detours away from Arrington, each detour paved with superlatives. Stone presses flesh with wheeler-dealer David Sturmack, the most powerful man in Hollywood. Centurion boss Louis Regenstein, who thinks Stone would make a great actor, gets him a screen test, the best anybody’s ever seen. Even the folks in wardrobe rave. (Stone’s a perfect 42 Long.) Meantime, Stone’s struck up intimate relations with two strikingly beautiful women whose deepest loyalties aren—t to him. He’s also taken an instant suspicion to big-time banker Onofrio Ippolito—and so have we, thanks to a heavy-handed prologue that showed Stone plummeting to a watery grave, courtesy of the Ippolito anchor he’s chained to. Once Stone gets loose from that anchor, it’s time for the second, far more obligatory installment, as he sets about rescuing Arrington, who’s obviously been kidnaped, and tracing the crime (and many others) to Ippolito, Sturmack, and Co., with the help of some antique trickery (rescues from sinking ships, bullet-firing pens) that wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow in the earliest James Bond films. Such leftovers don’t make very tasty or nutritious fare, not even when the virtues of every predictable scrap are extolled at the top of the author’s stentorian voice.(Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; $250,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-06-018369-1
Page count: 313pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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