Orchid Beach (Holly Barker Series #1)

Orchid Beach (Holly Barker Series #1)

4.2 61
by Stuart Woods

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Smart, attractive, and fiercely independent, Major Holly Barker, the army-brat daughter of a master sergeant, has been forced into early retirement at the age of thirty-seven as the result of a scandalous sexual harassment case. With the help of her dad she makes the move to civilian life, becoming deputy chief of police in Orchid Beach, Florida. But below the calm,…  See more details below


Smart, attractive, and fiercely independent, Major Holly Barker, the army-brat daughter of a master sergeant, has been forced into early retirement at the age of thirty-seven as the result of a scandalous sexual harassment case. With the help of her dad she makes the move to civilian life, becoming deputy chief of police in Orchid Beach, Florida. But below the calm, sunny surface of this sleepy, well-to-do coastal island town lies a web of evil and deceit that escalates when a colleague and another associate are brutally gunned down. Alone, an outsider with no clues to go on, finding the killers won't be easy for Holly, and her seemingly low-key new career soon thrusts her into a dangerous game of cat and mouse. Surrounded by a staff of officers she neither knows nor trusts, Holly finds help in a most unexpected source - Daisy, a Doberman of exceptional intelligence and loyalty who quickly becomes her inseparable companion and protector. The closer she gets to unraveling the mystery of Orchid Beach, however, the nearer Holly comes to danger darker and more deadly than any she could ever have anticipated.

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Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Stuart Woods wrote one of the most serious and accomplished crime novels of my generation, Chiefs, a southern novel spanning 40 years and the lives of three police chiefs who must try to solve a brutal racial murder. It is elegant, elegiac, and powerful. It also inspired a miniseries almost as good as the book itself.

If Woods's work since then has been less daring and innovative, he has become a reliable purveyor of glossy beach books that are as much fun as movie popcorn.

And Orchid Beach, the new one, is no exception.

Former Army Sergeant Holly Barker is a witness in an Army sexual-harrassment case in which the old-boys network triumphs as usual. Holly knows that her military career is virtually over. The old boys will see to it that she's never again promoted. She decides to take her dad's friend up on his offer of making her deputy chief of police in Orchid Beach, Florida.

My phrase "a reliable purveyor of glossy beach books" might sound slightly patronizing, but I don't mean it to be at all. This one is put together with as much art and skill as far more "serious" crime novels.

Woods is so smooth, so slick, he gives us a 40-page nonstop run that gets the novel going in high gear. Yes, Holly reaches Orchid Beach, but there finds that the chief who hired her is in a coma. Somebody shot him in the head the night before. She goes to talk to the chief's best friend — and finds him murdered. What kind of town is Orchid Beach? What has she gotten herself into? Are any of these seemingly innocent people to be believed?

Woods plays all hiscards.There's romance, danger (a couple of big-budget Bruce Willis-like action scenes), and a lot of tartly observed characters who live in gated communities away from the riffraff.

There's even a dog, a winsome Doberman named Daisy, with whom Holly identifies innordinately (they're both tough bitches, as she notes).

Raymond Chandler once wrote to Erle Stanley Gardner that the virtue of fast writing (such as Gardner practiced and Chandler loathed) was that the relentlessness of the storytelling sweeps you along so irresistibly that you never stop to question whether this or that plot point makes sense. All of Woods's recent books have that "irresistible" quality — you just can't stop reading them. But I doubt they're written quickly. Woods is a polished writer in every sense, and a lot of the sentences shine. And the back stories of the major characters are worked out in loving and fascinating detail.

If you want state-of-the-art crime entertainment, then you want Stuart Woods. He delivers the goods every time out.
— Ed Gorman, barnesandnoble.com

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Holly Barker Series, #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.36(w) x 6.76(h) x 1.11(d)

Read an Excerpt

Orchid Beach

By Stuart Woods

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2007 Stuart Woods
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780061013416

Chapter One

Holly Barker, with the rest of the crowd, was called to her feet as the panel of officers filed into the courtroom. She was a spectator now, no longer a witness, but she wanted to be here for this.

Colonel James Bruno stood at the defense table, ramrod straight, and watched his judges with beady eyes. For the first time since his trial had begun, he was not smiling.

"Seats!" the clerk of the court called out, and all sat.

The brigadier general, who was president of the court, cleared his throat. "The following three verdicts have been reached unanimously," the general said. "As to the first charge, sexual harassment, we have reached a verdict of not guilty."

Holly's stomach shrank into a knot. She locked her knees so that they would not buckle. She knew what could only come next.

"As to the second charge, attempted rape, we have reached a verdict of not guilty," the general said. "And as to the third charge, conduct unbecoming an officer, we have reached a verdict of not guilty."

"Yes!" screamed a woman in the front row.

Holly recognized her as Colonel Bruno's wife. It was the first time she had appeared in court.

"Colonel Bruno," the general said, "you are restored to duty. This court is adjourned."

Holly made her way slowly through the crowd, ignoring the reporters who weredemanding her reaction to the verdict. On her way she came abreast of the young blond lieutenant who had been the other complainant in the case. Holly found her hand and squeezed. The woman was in tears.

The cold outside air struck like a slap, reviving her, and she saw her father's car at the curb. She got in beside him.

"I'm sorry," he said. He was dressed in his master sergeant's uniform and wore the green beret of the special forces.

"You knew, didn't you?" she asked.

Hamilton Barker nodded. "It was in the cards," he said. "It was Bruno's word against yours. He's a West Pointer, and so were most of the court. They weren't going to destroy his career."

"They've destroyed mine," Holly said. She could see the gold oak leaf on her left shoulder out of the corner of her eye.

"You can request a transfer, and they can't deny it," her father said.

"Come on, Ham. They'd never let me forget it. I'd end up in some unit commanded by a classmate of Bruno's, and I'd be repeatedly passed over for promotion on some pretext or other."

Her father said nothing.

"I could get a job on a police force somewhere," she said.

"Funny you should mention that," her father replied.

They sat in a steak house near the base, the ruins of their dinner before them. The talk had been of army, Vietnam and army, and Holly had done all the listening.

She liked Ham's friend and old comrade-in-arms, Chet Marley; he was smaller and skinnier than Ham, but he had the same wiry toughness as her father, the same crow's-feet around the eyes from squinting into the distance. And he seemed very smart.

"Okay, enough of this old-soldier stuff," Marley said suddenly. "I've got a problem, Holly, and I think you might be the person to help me solve it."

"Tell me, Chet," Holly said.

"I'm chief of a twenty-four-man force in Orchid Beach, Florida, and there's a gaping hole where the number-two man ought to be."

"Don't you believe in promoting from within?" Holly asked.

"I believe in the best man for the job," Marley said. "Or woman," he added.

"You short of good men?"

"I'm short of experienced men. Most of them are in their twenties. I've got one man who's forty and has experience, but I don't trust him."

"Don't trust him, how?" Holly asked.

"He's a politician, and I don't like politicians. He thinks he should have my job, which is okay, I guess, except he'd screw it up if he had it."

"Why don't you fire him?"

"He's never given me any real cause, and he's connected with some of the city council."

"That's bad, I guess," Holly replied. "I'm no politician, but I can see how that could be difficult to deal with."

"I'm going to retire next year, and I don't want him to have my job," Marley said. "My idea is to bring in an experienced . . . person, somebody who can take charge and be ready when I go."

Holly nodded, but said nothing.

"I know about your record from your old man," Marley said, "and I've asked around some, too, because I wouldn't take his word for anything." He grinned and cast a sideways glance at Ham Barker. "You're already running more MPs than I've got cops. I've heard about your unit citations and the level of training and performance you demand from your people, and I like what I hear."

"Thank you," she said.

"Of course, we're not the army, and things have to be handled a little different in civilian life, but I think you could get used to that."

"I'm sure I could," Holly said.

"It's a nice town, Orchid Beach. It sits on a barrier island halfway down the east coast of Florida, has a population of around twenty thousand, a lot of them retirees."

"Lots of tourists?"

"No, not really tourists. We get the same folks back, year after year, most of them to family beach houses--folks from Atlanta and Charlotte and Birmingham, and a lot of northeasterners. We've got no high-rise hotels, no casinos and only a few motels. There's a small black community and a stable blue-collar group, mostly construction workers, plumbers, electricians and a few retired military folk. We've got a low crime rate and not much of a drug problem, until recently."


Excerpted from Orchid Beach by Stuart Woods Copyright © 2007 by Stuart Woods. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Orchid Beach (Holly Barker Series #1) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 59 reviews.
TomBarnes39 More than 1 year ago
Holly Barker grew up as a military brat, got hooked on her father¿s trade and climbed through the military ranks and OCS to major in charge of a military police division. Her immediate superior, a West Point grad, tried to woo the attractive major and when that didn¿t work he attempted to rape her.
Holly filed harassment and attempted rape charges but lost out to the old boy¿s and West Point collegiality club.
Holly retired from the army and was hired by an old army buddy of her father¿s as Deputy Chief of Police in the city of Orchid Beach located on the east coast of Florida.
Chief Chet Marley went outside the department to hire Holly because he suspected there was at least on mole inside his organization. Something big was going on in Orchid Beach that involved smuggling, money laundering, drugs or possibly weapons ¿ but he couldn¿t put his finger on it.
Holly drove south, leaving her army nightmare behind, only to inherit another on her first day as Deputy Chief of Police at Orchid Beach. Chief Chet Marley had been murdered the night before her arrival, which complicated her standing with the police department and more than that, being thrust into the job of acting Chief of Police. Bad blood within the city council notwithstanding, Holly Barker weathered the storm and was eventually installed as the permanent Chief of Police.
Chief Barker¿s investigation into Marley¿s murder was inhibited by the mole factor. And if that wasn¿t enough the discovery of the dead body of Hank Doherty, less than a mile from the scene of Marley¿s murder was. Doherty was a paraplegic Vietnam Vet and another buddy of Ham Barker and Chet Marley.
When and where the murders took place were the only known factors in the investigation ¿ why was the unknown?
In the middle of a seemingly hopeless situation Holly Barker inherited a dog named Daisy, Hank Doherty¿s well-trained Doberman. Holly and Daisy quickly bonded and the chief found an immediate friend and a backup that she could trust.
The death of two army buddies got Ham Barker¿s attention and he hurried south to find the killer or killers of his pals. Holly loved her father, but wanted no outside interference in her investigation. However, as she already knew, standing up to Ham Barker was like standing up to Mount Rushmore.
Nothing came easy in the investigation, however bits and pieces of clues began to point in the direction of a gated and heavily armed community called Palmetto Gardens that was located just inside the Orchid Beach city limits.
Stuart Woods fine storytelling ability and his fast paced plot, with enough twists and turns to satisfy most mystery lovers¿, leads to a logical conclusion.
Tom Barnes author of 'The Hurricane Hunters and Lost in the Bermuda Triangle.'
readerex More than 1 year ago
I could not put the book down. Stuart Woods stayed true to form. The characters were credible and the dialog was right on. I still love Stuart Woods.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so filled with contradictions, I found it very discouraging. One minute Holly Barker is watching the sunset from her new trailer park, and the next morning the sun is coming up from the same direction. She and her father retire from the Army within weeks of each other, her after 20 years and he after 30. How does that math work out? I "reckon" this author didn't do his homework on this one. Interesting plot but with too many questions left unanswered...
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read several of Mr. Wood's other books (the Stone Barington novels), but I certainly enjoyed this protagonist much more so than his prior ones. While at times things seemed to fall into place a little too implausibly, I found this to be an excellent read, overall.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It would be a shame to not write more of a series about Holly Barker & her dog Daisy. It's also a shame that the 'professional' review dismissed this as too cliche...I wonder what the reviewer thinks happen to real women...romance, sexual harassment (usually not this bad), changing jobs, male work forces, & new pets...its called life. Mr. Wood did a great job making a intense story about a very realistic 'Excellent Working B(****)'.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
acorley84 More than 1 year ago
Orchid Beach - Top-Notch Series Title: Orchid Beach Author: Stuart Woods Narrator: Debra Monk Length: Unabridged; 6 hours Publisher: Harper Audio Published: August 1998 Genres: Fiction; Mystery My Rating: ¿¿¿¿ Synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Stuart Woods delivers a riveting thriller that introduces an exciting addition to the pantheon of fictional sleuths. Forced into early retirement at thirty-seven, smart, attractive, and fiercely independent Major Holly Barker trades in her bars as a military cop for the badge of deputy chief of police in Orchid Beach, Florida. But below the sunny surface of this sleepy, well-to-do island town lies an evil that escalates into the cold-blooded murder of one of Holly's new colleagues. An outsider, Holly has little to go on for answers and no one to help her—except Daisy, a Doberman of exceptional intelligence and loyalty that becomes her companion and protector. The closer Holly gets to the truth, the more she knows that it'll take one smart dog with guts to sniff out this killer—before he can catch her first. My Review: I typically don't pick up older books to read, but it just happen to be that the end of the year was nearing and I needed to complete a challenge with a flower/plant in the title, and I came across Orchid Beach. I had never read anything by Stuart Woods before, but I must say that this was a gem of a find! Once I finished, I was already trying to figure out how to get my hands on Orchid Blues, book 2! The narrator was a wonderful fit for Major Holly Barker, whose character I absolutely adored! I loved her carefree don't give a crap what anybody thinks attitude and her drive to get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible! The narrator kept me entertained throughout the entire book and made it seem like the story was over in no time! She also did a great job distinguishing herself between the different characters, so as not to confuse the reader as to who was actually talking! Her reading was smooth and animated in all the right spots! I hope to hear her on the next book! Back to the characters...there was an interesting cast of characters in this book! All of their personalities were so unique of that from anything that I've read before, and I think I enjoyed that the most! Of course, Daisy the Dog is my favorite, but Holly is a close second! I enjoyed the writing of Woods and his style. I felt that it flowed smoothly and concisely. He is really in tune with creative writing at its best and provides the perfect amount of romance and suspense, without the romance overpowering the suspense. He has a great since of climax and did a wonderful job of keeping the reader going until the very end. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and have just found myself a new author and series to follow! I've already got Orchid Blues and will be starting it soon, on audio as well! Thanks for a great book/series, Mr. Woods!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great new character, Holly lives a very exciting life. Can't wait to read the other books in this series.
songbirdsue More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book and the murder mystery that unfolds. I enjoyed the location since I am familiar with the real area the factious town is located in. The characters are well developed as well as the way in which the story unfolds. I loved the way the dog plays into the action. A great dog! There is a light sex scene as well as a detailed rape attempt.
Griffin-Fan More than 1 year ago
nice twist and turns. You will not want to put this book down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Stuart Woods books and enjoyed this book thoroughly. Will read the entire 'Holly Baker' series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Growls at the cat.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish I'd started reading Stuart Woods years ago
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This book had me from chapter one. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters. The suspense had my heart racing at times. I love Daisy.
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