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Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker Series #5)

Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker Series #5)

4.1 85
by Stuart Woods

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A brand-new page-turning Holly Barker novel from the perennially entertaining New York Times-bestselling author Stuart Woods.

After Special Agent Holly Barker lets international terrorist Teddy Fay slip through her fingers for a second time, the CIA thinks she might want a long vacation, at least until Teddy is captured and the bad publicity has blown over. So


A brand-new page-turning Holly Barker novel from the perennially entertaining New York Times-bestselling author Stuart Woods.

After Special Agent Holly Barker lets international terrorist Teddy Fay slip through her fingers for a second time, the CIA thinks she might want a long vacation, at least until Teddy is captured and the bad publicity has blown over. So Holly returns to her hometown of Orchid Beach, Florida, where she had been police chief for many years. But a very unpleasant surprise awaits her. Many years earlier, Holly and another female army officer had brought charges against their commanding officer for sexual harassment, attempted rape, and rape. Holly had managed to fight him off, but the other woman, a young lieutenant, had not. The officer in question was acquitted of all charges, and has also left the army-for a job as Orchid Beach's new police chief.

Will Holly return to the CIA? Or will she challenge her old nemesis for control of the Orchid...

Editorial Reviews

When the CIA thinks you need a breather, you don't argue. Disappointed that she let terrorist Teddy Fay slip through her fingers for a second time, Special Agent Holly Barker returns quietly to home in Orchid Beach, Florida, where she once served as police chief. On her return, she receives the painful news that the police department is now headed by a rapist who once assaulted her but escaped conviction. Holly realizes that she is at a crossroads: Should she return to the CIA? Or should challenge this old nemesis?
Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Woods piles on the coincidences in his modestly entertaining fifth thriller to feature CIA agent Holly Barker (after Iron Orchid). When Holly returns home to Orchid Beach, Fla., where she was once chief of police, she's reunited with both welcome and unwelcome figures from her past. Renegade ex-CIA agent Teddy Fay, sporting a new identity, has chosen to settle in nearby Vero Beach. Lauren Cade, a former military comrade, is now a sergeant with the Florida State Patrol. Holly is shocked to learn that James Bruno, her former commanding officer who was tried and acquitted of raping Lauren and who once tried to rape Holly herself, is Orchid Beach's new police chief. Holly's not so shocked to learn that a serial killer and rapist is at work in the area. Woods glibly lets the reader stay well ahead of the legal posse tracking the killer while still keeping a card or two up his sleeve. Playful dialogue and romantic sexual escapades lighten the atmosphere. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
Who poses the greater danger to Holly Barker (Iron Orchid, 2005, etc.): the man who once tried to rape her, or a vigilante who shoots political figures who don't share his views? The answer is the only surprise on tap. Just as she's been forced to take time off from her job with the CIA, Holly Barker learns that Col. James Bruno, the one-time Army superior who was acquitted of all charges-the attempted rape of Holly and the actual rape of Lt. Lauren Cade-is back on the scene. In fact, he's Holly's successor as police chief of Orchid Beach, Fla. Not surprisingly, the town and environs have recently been home to a series of rapes by someone who's recently graduated to murder. The victims are unimportant, along with the circumstances or the details of each crime scene. What matters is that Holly herself, returning to the area, has been attacked once more, though once more she's had a narrow escape from actual rape. So her interest in nailing Bruno is both personal and stoked by very recent events. Also on hand, and feeling much the same way, are two familiar faces. Lauren Cade, who's taken a job with a special investigative unit working out of nearby Vero Beach, is just as angry at Bruno as ever, and just as determined to see justice done. And ex-CIA operative Teddy Fay (Mounting Fears, 2009, etc.), temporarily on leave from his self-appointed mission of assassinating political figures he thinks are too far to the right. What could possibly happen when Teddy goes up against Bruno-and what surprises could possibly await Holly and Lauren?The familiar characters' familiar moves are as stylized as Kabuki in this pedestrian procedural. But at least the ending doesn't simply hit the Reset buttonfor the next round.

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Holly Barker Series , #5
Edition description:
Unabridged, 6 CDs, 7 hours
Product dimensions:
5.24(w) x 5.88(h) x 0.79(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt


Holly Barker arrived at CIA headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, at her usual seven thirty a.m., parked the car in her reserved spot and took the elevator to her floor. She set her briefcase on the desk, hung her coat on the back of the door and sat down, ready to do the work she always did before her boss, Deputy Director for Operations, or DDO, Lance Cabot, arrived. To her surprise, the door between their adjoining offices opened, and he stood there, looking at her in his wry way.
“Good morning,” he said, “and no cracks about how early I’m in.”
Holly smiled. “Good morning,” she replied.
“Come in.” He stood aside and let her pass into his office, which was much larger and more luxuriously furnished than hers. Rumor was that Lance had furnished the office out of his own pocket, but Holly knew him better than that. He was much more likely to have found a way for the Agency to pay the tab. He waved her to a seat.
“Coffee?” he asked, picking up a pot from the paneled cupboard that contained a small kitchenette and a fully stocked bar.
“Yes, thank you.”
Lance poured them both a cup and sat down at his desk. “Have I ever told you how good you are at your job?” he asked.
Holly blinked. “Not in so many words.”
“We’ve both been working on this floor for three years,” he said, “and, quite frankly, I think you could do my job as well as I do.”
Holly blinked in astonishment. Lance had always been miserly with praise, apparently believing that a “well done” sufficed.
“Except for the politics,” Lance said.
He was right about that, she knew. “Well . . .”
“You’re hopeless at the politics.”
“I’m working on that,” she said.
“Yes, but you’re still hopeless.”
“Not without hope of improvement,” she said, contradicting him.
Lance smiled a little. “Well, you can hope.”
“Lance,” she said, “I hope this is all a prelude to a big promotion, a larger office, a huge increase in salary and a Company Cadillac.” This was said less than half in jest.
“As I said, Holly, you can hope.” Lance pushed back from his desk, crossed his legs and sipped his coffee. “Actually, you have to leave us.”
Holly clamped her teeth together to keep her jaw from dropping. “I don’t know how to respond to that,” she managed to say.
Lance’s eyebrows went up. “Oh, it’s only for a time, say a month.”
Holly stared at him, uncomprehending.
“I’m not firing you,” he clarified.
“Good, then I won’t have to kill you,” she replied. “Now what the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m not doing the talking; other people are.”
“Talking? Not about you and me, surely.”
“Well, maybe that, too. What they’re talking about is Teddy Fay.”
Teddy Fay was a name never mentioned at Langley, a great embarrassment to everyone in the building, except to those who secretly rooted for him. Teddy was the former deputy chief of Technical Services, the division that supplied operational officers with everything they needed to accomplish their missions: a weapon, a wardrobe, an identity or a cyanide capsule. Whatever, Tech Services obliged. But Teddy Fay, after retiring, had gone off the reservation, had started killing right-wing political figures, Middle Eastern diplomats—anyone who Teddy felt did not have the best interests of his country at heart—and no combination of the Agency’s and the FBI’s resources had been able to stop him or even find him. Holly was the only CIA employee who had ever even seen him since his retirement and then only when he was disguised.
“Am I getting blamed for Teddy Fay?” she asked.
“Not exactly,” Lance replied. “It’s just felt that you’ve had a number of opportunities to kill him and you haven’t done so.”
“Lance, I’ve seen the man only once when I knew who he was, and, on that occasion, I managed to put a bullet in him.”
“Yes, but not in the head or the heart,” Lance pointed out. “And given that, during your schooling at the Farm, you ran up the highest scores with a handgun of any trainee ever, some wonder why you didn’t do just a little better. In fact, I myself have wondered.”
Holly had wondered about that, too. “I won’t dignify that with a response,” she said, by way of saying nothing. She almost said that she was not an assassin but thought better of it.
“Be that as it may, you are just a little too hot around here at the moment, so take some leave. The director has had a word with the higher-ups, complaining about the unused leave time that some officers have allowed to pile up, and you’re high on the list. You’ve got nine weeks coming, and it’s time you took some time.”
“Lance, I’ve got an awful lot on my plate right now.”
“You need a change of diet,” he said. “And, you might recall, we’ve made a few modifications in that house of yours in Florida.”
Holly had nearly forgotten about that, and she had not visited the house since. “That wasn’t my idea.”
“Go there. E-mail or call, if you can’t stand being out of touch, but go.”
Holly sighed. “Well, I guess I could clean up my desk in a few days,” she said.
“You’ve got two hours to write me a memo on what’s pending, so I can reassign the work, then you’re out of here.” He paused for a reaction and got none. “Are you hearing me?”
“I’m doing that job for the director,” she said. She had grown fairly close to Katharine Rule Lee, the director of Central Intelligence, and she wanted to further that relationship.
“This request comes from the director; I’m only passing it on. Give me the file; I’ll handle it.”
Holly threw up her hands.
“Why are you still sitting there?” Lance asked.
“All right, all right,” Holly said, then slouched out of the big office and to her desk. Her work was neatly filed, and she made a stack of folders as she wrote her memo. She was done in exactly two hours. She knocked on Lance’s door.
“Come in.”
She walked into the room to find the director sitting where she, herself, had sat earlier that morning.
“Good morning, Holly,” Kate Lee said.
“Good morning, Director,” Holly replied. She set the bundle of file folders on Lance’s conference table, then handed him the memo and watched while he read it through.
“I thought I’d stop in and reassure you before you leave,” the director said. “It’s not that we’re trying to get rid of you; it’s just that we’re . . . well, trying to get rid of you for a little while. We needn’t go into why.”
“I understand,” Holly said. “At least I think I do.”
“This will pass,” the director said. “After all, Lance has assured me that Teddy Fay is still dead.”
Holly nodded as if she agreed.
“Oh, by the way, Lance probably hasn’t told you this, if I know him, but we’re bumping you up to executive grade, and, in addition to the salary increase and a few perks, you now have a new title: Assistant Deputy Director of Operations—ADDO—effective immediately.”
“Thank you, Director,” Holly said with real appreciation, “and no, Lance didn’t tell me.” She shot him a glance.
Lance tossed her memo on his desk. “Oh, get out of here,” he said. “Let us know your whereabouts.” He tossed her an envelope. “You’ll need this.”
The director stood up and offered her hand. “Congratulations, Holly. Now go and buy yourself a very nice present.”
Holly flew.


Holly packed her Cayenne Turbo as lightly as she could and spoke to Daisy, her Doberman pinscher. “All right, Daisy, you can get in now.” Daisy, who had been sitting by the car, waiting for instructions, leapt lightly into the front passenger seat of the SUV.
Daisy had been beautifully trained by an old army buddy of her father’s who had met an untimely end. Holly had bought her from the man’s daughter, and she and Daisy had bonded at once.
Holly got onto I-95 south, set the speed control at eighty and switched on the radar detector. The device was illegal in Virginia, but what the hell, it was cleverly concealed, and it looked for cops both ahead and behind while jamming their lasers long enough for her to slow down.

They spent the first night in a motel near Charleston and got moving early the next morning. She called her father, Hamilton Barker, from there and told him she was on the way. By late afternoon she was at the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, then she turned onto the side road that led to her father’s house, on a little island, where he lived with his longtime girlfriend and recent wife, Virginia.
She pulled into the yard and let Daisy out of the car. Daisy ran through the open door and came back with Ham and Ginny, and hugs and kisses were exchanged, not least by Daisy.
“You want a drink?” Ham asked.
“No, I want to get to the house and settle in,” Holly said. “I just wanted to say hello on the way. How about dinner tomorrow night?”
“Sure,” Ginny said. “Come here, and I’ll cook.”
“You’re on,” Holly replied.
“I went to take a look at your place a few weeks ago,” Ham said, “but I was met by some grim-faced guy packing a handgun and told to go away. I figured he was one of yours.”
“Yeah, he was,” Holly said. “The Agency did some work on the house.”
Ham made a grunting noise. “I never knew they were building contractors,” he said.
“You’d be surprised at some of the things the Agency does,” Holly replied. “Come on, Daisy, let’s go home.” Daisy jumped back into the car. “See you tomorrow night,” Holly said, and drove away.
She crossed the bridge and turned south on A-1A, the road that ran the length of the state’s barrier islands. She drove through the little community of Orchid Beach and a couple of miles south turned into her driveway. She was immediately brought up short by a heavy wrought-iron gate hanging on reinforced concrete posts. “What the hell?” she muttered.
She opened her briefcase and took out the envelope Lance Cabot had given her. There were some papers, some keys and a remote control. She pressed the remote’s button, and the gate swung open, closing behind her automatically as she drove through.
Holly stopped at the front door and got out of the car with Daisy, who was obviously glad to be home. She fumbled with the new keys, noticing that they had none of the usual teeth, just what seemed to be a row of magnets. The door, of painted steel, was new. She got a key into the lock, and it took two complete turns to open the door. She checked the door’s edge, and when she turned the key again, not one but three six-inch steel bolts emerged that would slide into the steel door frame. Impressive. She heard the security system beeping and found a new keypad next to the door. The papers in the envelope Lance had given her revealed her new entry code, and she used it to disarm the system. She noted in the instructions that any breach of security would be sent electronically, not to a local security company but directly to Langley.
She unloaded her things while Daisy ran around sniffing at everything in the house. Holly walked into the living room and looked around. Everything seemed exactly the same, even the old magazines on the coffee table. Then she noticed that her view of the beach and ocean through the picture windows and sliding doors had a slightly greenish cast. She inspected them and found that the glass in the windows and doors was now an inch and a half thick. Good for hurricanes, she reckoned.

Meet the Author

Stuart Woods is the author of fifty novels, including the New York Times-bestselling Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series. He is a native of Georgia and began his writing career in the advertising industry. Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. An avid sailor and pilot, Woods lives in New York City, Florida, and Maine.

Brief Biography

Key West, Florida; Mt. Desert, Maine; New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1938
Place of Birth:
Manchester, Georgia
B.A., University of Georgia, 1959

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Hothouse Orchid (Holly Barker Series #5) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 86 reviews.
Pmopals More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this immensely - from first Chapter to Last. I bought it with a Gift Certificate I got for my birthday - read it in 1 sitting - it was that good - page turner! I guessed wrong on the bad guy - but did not mind at all - it was so good - wish I read it slower. Wanted it to last but Holly and the rest of the gang were too good to let languish on a slow read. The book has travelled on for my Dad's enjoyment as well as a sister - think I'll keep passing it on until the ink fades from the pages.
sherPA More than 1 year ago
this holly baker book is great. i enjoy the interaction of the characters,holly with ham-her father, as well as with others.
Twnsmom More than 1 year ago
Loved it! Wish there were more!
JIMMYBOY More than 1 year ago
Thank you.
G-MANRG More than 1 year ago
Can't wait to get another
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great series, hope there are more Holly Barker books to come.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why did no one notice that the secretary Jane Gray resurrected? She was killed in the first book but she is miraculously back in place as the secretary at the PD.
MJ6 More than 1 year ago
One of his best.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
dcalNC More than 1 year ago
Very good way of getting Holly Barber and Stone Barrington together
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Cynthia Padrick More than 1 year ago
Felt like you were in Florida...
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