In previous Stone Barrington books, we have gotten to know Stuart Woods’s protagonist quite well. However, the author has decided to change things up a bit in COLLATERAL DAMAGE, the latest addition to the series. Here, Stone Barrington assumes more of a supporting role rather than being the major problem solver, as we are given an in-depth introduction to other characters.
Stone’s favorite New York restaurant Elaine’s has closed in the wake of its owner’s death. Visiting the site opens wounds of both good and bad memories for him and his detective pal, Dino. While they reminisce, a deadly bomb takes the life of the foreign secretary in London. Strong evidence suggests a link to an incident in Los Angeles, where Stone and his friend/lover, CIA operative Holly Barker, helped thwart a terrorist plot involving two brothers who were killed in the process of setting off lethal bombs, one of which had utilized nuclear material.
"COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a weekend read that will keep you riveted to its climax.... Stone’s close relationship to the government officials involved, along with his intelligence, gives him a major role in the story, and his love affair with Holly leads us to anticipate more action in future Barrington thrillers with the lovely CIA operative."
When her boss, CIA Director Katherine Rule Lee, the wife of the U.S. President, calls upon Holly to investigate, chills run up her spine. The dead brothers had a third sibling, Jasmine Shazaz, who now lives in London. The Vanity Fair reporter who had witnessed the California bombs being destroyed may be actively pursuing to publicize the event. Holly must stop the story from being leaked when news of the London bombing hits. Coincidence may prevent Jasmine, if she is indeed the bomber, from being captured if this news is made public.
Stone serves on a special presidential commission covering incidents like the latest attack. In a briefing with government officials, Holly and Stone learn that the deceased Dr. Kharl, a Pakistani scientist, had most probably assembled the nuclear device to be set by the Shazaz boys, considering that he alone had the knowledge to produce the weapon for them. Jasmine had been a witness and participant in her family’s underground activities, and is now on a mission of revenge for the deaths of her brothers.
Woods develops Holly as an experienced operative given new duties and enormous responsibility to apprehend and detain/or kill Jasmine. Katherine involves herself in the hunt because of the dire possibilities of any successful terrorist plot on U.S. soil. We see a human and whimsical side of the presidency in the scenes featuring her husband. Deeply dedicated in their respective jobs, these people can exhibit ordinary emotions that down-to-earth readers can understand.
As the book progresses, the politics in London and Washington are shown for contrast in style as well as propriety. FBI, CIA and the British Intelligence Organization work together and share findings, but each declares portions of their own operative turf. We can only imagine that reality in today’s political spectrum may operate in the same manner. Alternating chapters explore the mind of Jasmine, whose motives propel her actions. Her status is elevated within her terrorist cell due to her knowledge of the previous bombs, her intelligence, and her willingness to plan and execute the jobs with little concern for her own security. Safe houses, various identities and locations seem manufactured a bit too easily for her.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is a weekend read that will keep you riveted to its climax. Stone Barrington may be the titular character of this series, but Holly Barker is the real heroine, while Dino and his girlfriend serve as minor characters. Stone’s close relationship to the government officials involved, along with his intelligence, gives him a major role in the story, and his love affair with Holly leads us to anticipate more action in future Barrington thrillers with the lovely CIA operative.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 31, 2013