Barbara Eagle loves to adapt --- to new surroundings, new husbands,
new money, new lovers and new opportunities to break the law. Her
husband, Ed Eagle, a 6'7" attorney, believes that he has the
perfect life: a beautiful home, a loving and affectionate wife, a
position in Santa Fe society, an excellent reputation and the
contentment of a man who has all the trappings of success. He has
all these things until his 50th birthday, which begins with Ed
waking up three hours late. This is also the day that Ed's new law
offices open. From that point forward, it seems as though Ed is
destined to pick the short straw repeatedly.
Barbara has a plan. She aims to rip off her husband for more than
five million dollars, change her appearance and live the life of
luxury for the rest of her existence. The plot is nonstop action,
as Ed tries to discover Barbara's whereabouts, stop his money from
flowing into her account and convince her to sign needed documents.
We go from Santa Fe to rural Mexico and cross the border several
Stuart Woods engages the reader in a back-and-forth carnival ride
through plots and subplots between Ed and Barbara, the private
investigators Ed has hired to track down Barbara, and a convict
named Joe Big Bear. When a judge assigns cases to certain lawyers
based on "picking straws," of course Ed chooses the short straw. He
must represent an incarcerated man, Joe Big Bear, who is charged
with a triple murder. He seems to have an airtight alibi --- he was
fixing an automobile for a client during the hours when the triple
murder took place. But, of course, there is more than meets the eye
in his alibi.
Joe Big Bear has several interesting and revealing confrontations
during his time in prison as he awaits his trial. There,
coincidentally, he meets the man Barbara hired to kill her husband.
This is an excellent example of Woods's sense of humor and irony.
The plot development here is very savvy.
Another example of Woods's ability to supply the reader with a
backdrop of humor is his detailed adventure of the private
investigators who were hired by Ed to find Barbara. They were given
only one task: find Barbara's whereabouts, approach her and have
her sign six pieces of paper. That's it! What transpires is a Three
Stooges-type comedy that alone is worth the price of this
Woods's 33rd novel is aptly named and contains all the elements
that continue to appeal to his avid readers. His main characters
are multi-faceted, interesting and intelligent. The point is not to
figure out the ending of his mysteries but to savor the details,
the subtleties and nuances, twists and turns, and character
development. Having read almost all of Woods's books, I continue to
be a fan and thoroughly enjoyed SHORT STRAW.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 23, 2011