Cold Paradise

Orchid Beach

Santa Fe Dead
by Stuart Woods
(G. P. Putnam, $25.95, V) ISBN 978-0399-15490-4
Since 1981 when Stuart Woods introduced Will Lee and Delano, Georgia in Chiefs he has been lauded for creating strong, intelligent main characters. In his 1992 book Santa Fe Rules Woods introduced Ed Eagle, the best defense lawyer in Santa Fe, followed by the sequel Short Straw.

Santa Fe Dead is the third of the Ed Eagle books. It helps to have read the two previous books as many of the same characters are included. At the outset, Barbara Eagle, Ed's psychopathic ex-wife, is on trial for attempted murder when she escapes from the courtroom and hides at a plush spa only to discover the next day that she is acquitted. At the spa, Barbara, who has now changed her name to Eleanor Wright, meets and seduces Walter Keeler, recently widowed and richer by $2.7 billion after selling his avionics company.

They marry shortly thereafter but tragically Walter dies in a car accident. Prior to his death, Walter changed his will to give his billions to Barbara but a letter from Ed Eagle to Walter's lawyer, Joe Wilen, results in the will being changed to a paltry $50,000 each month. When Barbara is advised of the dramatic change, she vows revenge against Joe and Ed.

Ed is now seeing Susannah Wilde an actress previously married to a film producer at Centurion Studios (a recurrent reference in Wood's books) who stalks her and whom she shoots when he appears at her door with a gun. Meanwhile, Ed receives a call from Italy from Donald Wells another producer at Centurion (born in Delano, Georgia) whose wife and stepson are murdered at their Sante Fe home. Well's wife is heiress to Worth Pharmaceuticals also worth billions (more Stuart Woods symmetry).

In typical Woods style, he ties the story together with hitman Jack Cato who works as a stuntman at Centurion Studios. Almost every Stuart Woods novel includes private airplanes, golf, posh settings, sex, characters from Delano and, in Santa Fe Dead, a cameo appearance by Dino Barchetti from the Stone Barrington series.

If you like quick summer reading and glitz, Santa Fe Dead works. After reading thirty of his novels, I find reading a Stuart Woods book is like returning to my favorite vacation place in the summer or a favorite restaurant. You will always see familiar things which bring a smile to your face and pleasant memories. Although not his best effort, the familiarity alone makes this worthwhile for those who have read Woods previously. For those of who haven't read Stuart Woods, start with Chiefs and see if you don't become hooked.

--Jerry Solot

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