Stuart Woods entertains us again with a new Stone Barrington mystery, which now shifts from New York City to Washington, D.C. The story begins when Stone and his best friend, NYPD detective Dino Bachetti, bemoan their status as empty nesters, as both their sons are off to college. Recently widowed, Stone feels timid about putting himself in the market for dating.
"Woods gives his characters humor, intelligence, integrity and a willingness to work with all agencies involved."
An old friend, assistant deputy director for the CIA Holly Barker, interrupts their meal with an urgent request. President Will Lee wants them both in Washington, D.C. In his private quarters, the President briefs them on the sensitive matter they’ll be investigating. Stone gladly accepts a working relationship, and a social one as well, with Miss Barker. The previous year, the White House social secretary, Mimi Kendrick, was murdered on the White House grounds, with her husband accused of the killing. Shortly thereafter, he had ended his own life. The case has been closed, but the President and First Lady are not convinced the conclusions are correct. Known for their discretion, the two New York detectives are brought in to finalize matters.
Their arrival in Washington appears to be common knowledge. Whenever Stone questions the speed of flying rumors, he’s given the pat comment, “Well, it’s Washington…” They work from their lush suite at an upscale city hotel, aided by Holly Barker and her connections in both the FBI and CIA. Stone and Holly resume a flaming relationship out of their pasts, engaging in sex on a routine basis. Not to be outdone, Dino is quick to engage Assistant FBI Director Shelley Bach in his bedroom when briefings and dinner are finished. In previous books, Stone has exhibited sexual prowess, but D.C. DEAD expends a number of pages on his personal activities with more than one partner. It brings full circle the idea that political life is rife with multiple affairs behind many closed Washington doors. The dead woman’s husband may not have taken his own life, but his sex life unfolds as a wild track record for the two investigators.
When questioned, a White House maid tells of seeing the dead man ducking behind closed doors of the Lincoln bedroom to satisfy his sexual hunger. Not only was his dead wife’s aide one of his playmates, several additional Washington insiders have fallen to his charms. About the time Stone is ready to close the case, numerous dead bodies crop into the picture. A diary from one of Kendrick’s paramours reveals obscene jealousy, sexual depravity with little remorse. After being questioned, she turns up dead. Soon, four lifeless female bodies demand that the murders be solved.
A side plot involves Barker’s group running down leads on a former agent who has gone rogue, along with his girlfriend. Lance Cabot, her boss, demands that she bring the team home from San Diego and suspend the search. Teddy Fay and Lauren Cade travel by private aircraft from their hideout in San Diego to just outside Washington D.C., where Teddy makes a new plan. Agent Todd Bacon cannot withdraw from the chase even having been relocated to a new office, with new responsibilities. The mini-plot adds words to the novel but seems to have little important effect on the main plot.
When Stone and Dino wind down the investigation, a new lead makes their continued presence necessary. The victims’ cells phones are missing from respective crime scenes. But one still remains traceable. The two couples meet again in the hotel suite to pool information and make plans to follow additional leads.
Woods gives his characters humor, intelligence, integrity and a willingness to work with all agencies involved. If readers pursue a tangled international story of political intrigue, they may be disappointed to read of lust, sex, lies and personal deception. D.C. DEAD is hot and steamy but finalizes the investigation with satisfaction. Future titles will be sure to tantalize with Stone’s robust personality. A touch of the family man spurts into the character formula and will be awaited in novels to follow.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on February 27, 2012