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From Barnes & NobleThe 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