Attorney and former NYPD officer Stone Barrington continues to headline Stuart Woods’s series of crime and intrigue. In STRATEGIC MOVES, Stone is rewarded a healthy bonus by the prestigious law firm of Woodman & Weld for bringing in a new high-profile client, Strategic Services. He works for them “as counsel” in cases they choose to defer, and the offer of a partnership is dangled as well.
"Woods writes with excellent knowledge of aviation and flying planes, ranging from personal to corporate jet aircraft."
The setting is Elaine’s, Stone’s favorite restaurant, which is where he receives the generous check. Much of the action takes place here, which enhances the lifestyle he enjoys. He’s often joined by his good friend, Lt. Dino Bachetti, of the NYPD. Tonight they wine and dine in lavish style to celebrate Stone’s good fortune.
The following evening Stone attends Herbie Fisher’s wedding. Herbie, a lovable former client who bets on the horses, has landed an upper bracket society wife, Stephanie, financier Jack Gunn’s daughter. At dinner, Stone is paired with Stephanie’s aunt, Adele, a wealthy widow. Herbie intends to invest much of the remaining $10 million from his big lottery win with Jack’s firm. However, Stone cautions him to wait when his company comes under legal scrutiny. Herbie’s honeymoon is canceled when Jack is arrested because a great deal of money is missing. Adele asks for Stone’s advice about her assets with Jack’s company, as does Herbie. Stone suggests that they both wait out the audit.
Meanwhile, Strategic Services has invested $10 million with Jack. A Board of Directors meeting has been called. CEO Mike Freeman is approached by the U.S. government in the person of Lance Cabot, director of intelligence operations at the CIA. Stone has contracted with Lance’s office in the past but sees no conflict with Strategic Services making a deal with him. Lance, not always open in negotiations, hires them to fly to Iraq, ferry large cargo material back to the U.S. and extract a political individual from a brief landing in Europe and return home. Stone is invited to fly with them as a tourist; the promise of more missions appears likely.
Stone’s sexual relationship with Adele blossoms when he surprises her with a trip to his island cabin in Maine for the weekend. They appear compatible, but violent events slam the attraction to a halt when Adele invites him to dinner one evening. She’s brutally murdered before the anticipated supper, and Stone calls on Dino to investigate. The Gunn family’s monetary troubles reach ugly tentacles closer to Stone with her death. Herbie tries his attorney’s patience, with the on-and-off-again honeymoon trip now set for a Caribbean island. His wife and her brother appear more than likely to know about the missing company money.
Woods writes with excellent knowledge of aviation and flying planes, ranging from personal to corporate jet aircraft. The huge cargo plane that Strategic Services takes to Iraq is described in great detail, with the interior setup written vividly. Stone’s experience with smaller airplanes comes in handy as he travels to Maine. When the cargo plane loses its political extractee, the incident is revealed with hilarity. Woods pictures Pablo, the reformed arms dealer, with sympathy, his need of Stone as attorney becoming apparent.
What also becomes apparent is Stone’s uncomfortable relationship with Lance. Trust is a major issue, and his status with his own clients even comes into play. Lance, though a government player, becomes a questionable good/bad guy. Pablo is willing to divulge information from his dubious past but holds an ace card, to be played when his family is guaranteed safety.
Stone Barrington is charming, witty, and a smart and likable hero, notwithstanding his appetites for sexual satisfaction, chronicled with class. Woods takes Stone from one encounter to future trysts, an integral part of his character. STRATEGIC MOVES promises a rapid-fire action but full development of all characters written. I’ll anticipate with great enthusiasm the next installment of the series.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on March 28, 2011