SON OF STONE focuses on confirmed bachelor attorney Stone Barrington’s relationship with his newly revealed state of fatherhood. The love from his past, widowed Arrington Calder, has dropped a bombshell: he’s the legitimate father of her son, Peter. Stone’s comfortable role as a corporate lawyer will expand into the dubious one as dad to a teenager, who is nearly too good to be true. Peter arrives with a drive to accomplish three goals. First, he wants a last name change (to that of Barrington). Second, his passion is to become a film director, graduating from a posh New York school and moving to Yale for film study. Third, he wants to legally become 18 rather than his present 16. That maturity will ease his acceptance in his chosen field. He’s already produced a feature film, and his stepfather, Vince Calder, had been a major Hollywood movie star.
"All in all, this is an enjoyable read, albeit with a questionable parent-child relationship. Still, I anticipate the next entry because Woods’s mystery writing is a joy to read."
Stone is quick to accept his new status (perhaps a bit too quickly for me). Arrington brings baggage into their relationship; now widowed, she had been a suspect in her husband’s death but had called upon Stone to clear her in the shooting. He has remained on board as her corporate attorney ever since.
Arrington has lived in rural Virginia for many years and is building a new home there, under the direction of local architect Tim Rutledge, with whom she has had a brief romance. Tim’s jealousy over her connection to Stone becomes a major conflict in this book. Concern about her own health problems has prompted his mother’s revelation about Peter’s true parentage. After a short time in New York, when Stone has accepted his role as father, Arrington marries him. As a new family, they travel to Virginia for the housewarming party she has planned for her new estate. There, tension mounts when Tim confronts Stone.
SON OF STONE contains a secondary plot with the entry of reporter Kelli Keane, whose drive is to blaze her byline across the front pages of her newspaper. She has uncovered the truth about Arrington’s son, his real father and the back story associated with Peter’s mother and stepfather. She’s now puzzled by the boy’s stated age, thus, in the mode of true gossip columnists, she keeps digging for facts. She wields favor with aging gossip columnist Prunella Wheaton, a former contemporary of Louella Parsons. Soon addressing the diva as “Prunie,” Keane works herself into close confidence. In her enthusiasm, Keane connects with photographer David Rutledge, Tim’s nephew. He’s to produce a photo-op piece about the Virginia house for a magazine. David puts a stop to Kelli’s point-and-shoot rapid-fire picture taking of the guests at the party. She’s a bit too enthusiastic for Virginia gentry, but in her element when tragedy strikes.
SON OF STONE reads like previous installments in the series, but contains less action. Maybe our hero is mellowing with middle age. The family dynamics prove challenging for the lawyer but come with rapid acceptance. There is no doubt about the love he has for Arrington, but becoming father to a teenager on such a fast track seems too easy. Stone is ambivalent but plows right into problem solution as if he had always played the role. Perhaps we can believe that his profession readies him for the job. Stone sits on the Board of Directors of a security company, making it convenient to employ a bodyguard when necessary. Arrington is wealthy in her own right as the widow of Vance Calder, who had owned majority stock in Centurion Studios.
Meanwhile, Peter has begun his studies at Knickerbocker Prep school, become good friends with Dino’s son, Ben, and discovered his first girlfriend in pianist Hattie Patrick. In a flash, she has agreed to write the musical score for Peter’s movie. Occasionally, glitches in the story seem a bit too conveniently resolved. For me, the difference between SON OF STONE and earlier Stone Barrington novels is that the life changes he encounters do not hit him as real problems. Murder does occur, but its solution is unremarkable, and Stone’s troubles solve with little effort.
All in all, this is an enjoyable read, albeit with a questionable parent-child relationship. Still, I anticipate the next entry because Woods’s mystery writing is a joy to read.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on September 20, 2011