One of my favorite non-fiction authors is Stuart Woods. I guess I have read all of his novels over the past 15 years. I just finished Sex, Lies & Serious Money (Putnam, 2016), and am reading his newest, Below the Belt (Putnam, 2017).
One reason I like the books so much is that many of them feature Stone Barrington as the primary character. Barrington is a former New York City policeman, who was injured on the job, and who now serves as counsel to a law firm in the region. He inherited a lot of money from his mother, who was a famous painter, and from an ex-wife who was murdered. Barrington owns four homes, including one in England, and he drives cars we only dream of, and is an established pilot with two of his own planes. Oh, and in case you wonder, he is single, and seems to always have a woman in tow, bouncing around his own and different beds. Some are recurring regulars, but others are just brief encounters. He is a very smart guy, who cannot stay out of trouble – in fact, trouble seems to find him. But, he can rest with comfort, because is best friend, Dino, is the commissioner of the police department in New York City.
I guess everyone has a character who we wish we could be like. Barrington’s life is too dangerous for me, but since I don’t have to live it, I will just enjoy reading it.
Stuart Woods is 79 years old, and according to Bookbrowse.com, is the author of more than sixty novels, including the New York Times–bestselling Stone Barrington 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 Mexico, Florida, and Maine.
If you need some advice on where to start with his books, just contact me, and I will give you some ideas.
I wish I were more enthusiastic. Always a master mystery storyteller, I have always greatly anticipated the release of each of his books. As always, this book hit the fiction best-seller lists, but quickly dropped out. Today, it stands as the 75th best-selling overall book on the Amazon.com list.
If you don’t know anything about him, I found this biographical sketch on Goodreads.com: “With over 60 million books in print worldwide, Harlan Coben’s last seven consecutive novels, MISSING YOU, SIX YEARS, STAY CLOSE, LIVE WIRE, CAUGHT, LONG LOST and HOLD TIGHT all debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and lists around the world. His books are published in 43 languages around the globe. Coben is the winner of the Edgar Award, Shamus Award and Anthony Award – the first author to win all three – and he has received an eclectic variety of honors from all over the world. His novel TELL NO ONE has been turned into a hit French film of the same name. His essays and columns have appeared in many top publications. Harlan was born in Newark, New Jersey. He still lives in New Jersey with his wife, Anne Armstrong-Coben MD, a pediatrician, and their four children.”
The story is set in the internet-based world of anonymity, involving a central character (“the stranger”) whom you may not be able to decide is doing right or doing wrong. Of course, when two murders are involved, your decision may not be that hard to make. The story is highly domestic, with lots of teenage sports, microwaved dinners, and dull family dialogue that slows the book down throughout. And, the ending of the book is not only predictable, but very disappointing. Even I am not so sour to spoil it for you. But, write me if you were surprised.
Perhaps authors such as Coben are just writing too fast in order to satisfy publishing demands to get into the marketplace. This one is simply not well-crafted, well-written, or even very suspenseful. I don’t think I would label this even as a mystery. Actually, I’m not sure what it is.
Just to be certain that I was not out of line, I checked out consumer reviews on Amazon.com. I read a few highlights from true Coben fans, who would love his book no matter what it did. And, I read many more who felt the same way that I did. In fact, some had the same complaints that I had.
I won’t give up on him. I will buy his next book. But, I hope it is awhile until it hits the stores. Next time, I hope he takes his time, lets the story cool, and gets back to greatness.