Stuart Woods cranks out murder mysteries like Baskin Robbins does with ice cream flavours, fast, flavourful and really enjoyable but always leaving you wanting more.
Dead in the Water is another of Woods’ entertaining creations that is to be read on a porch on a summer’s warm night.
In Dead in the Water, Stone has barely arrived in St. Marks, a lovely Caribbean island nation, on a sailing vacation when something very strange happens: A beautiful young woman sails into the harbor, entirely alone on a large yacht. Before long she is under the intense scrutiny of local authorities in the very considerable person of Sir Winston Sutherland, the minister of Justice. The problem is, though she arrived alone, she had departed the other side of the Atlantic in the company of her husband, a well-known writer, who is no longer in evidence. Evidence is what fascinates Stone Barrington, and before many pages have been turned, he is all that stands between the apparently innocent Allison Manning and the patently evil intent of Sir Winston, whose motives are unclear. What is clear is that the St. Marks’ system of justice bears little resemblance to the American courts to which Stone is accustomed and that his smallest error could prove fatal to his client.
Stuart Woods never disappoints, especially when the book stars his best character, lawyer/sleuth, Stone Barrington and Dead in the Water will not disappoint avid fans or even new arrivals to books by this writer.
The setting is St. Mark’s Island, supposedly a short airplane hop from Antigua. I never found it on a map but it is a believable setting as described by Woods. A tropical island that is a popular port of call for the serious yachtspeople.
A woman is accused of murdering her husband at sea and she is to be tried in the St. Mark’s judicial system which seems archaic, maybe even medieval in dealing with people accused of crimes there, particularly one who is accused of murder.
Allison Manning is accused of murdering her husband and dropping the body off in the ocean as the couple were sailing from the Canaries to the Caribbean. St. Mark’s British based judicial system is super efficient and believes in capital punishment with appeals effectively non-existent. In her case, from opening gavel clack to execution is likely not over one week.
Stone Barrington through some unusual circumstances is on his own, in a rented yacht, when he becomes entangled in the court proceedings as part of the defence team with supposedly senile local barrister, Leslie Hewitt.
The widow is found guilty, but that isn’t a spoiler alert. Stuart Wood launches a number of twists to his story from that point on. Just when the loose ends seem to be tied up, another twist. Nearing resolution again, another. Simply a lot of fun for the reader with surprising twists and turns.
Stone Barrington is an engaging leading character, a romantic, well-off and culturally polished. He’s a James Bond type without the espionage and the brutal engagements. Suave, debonnaire, a lady’s man who is romantically engaged throughout the story.
The book is more dialogue than description which makes for quick and entertaining reading. The supplementary cast members Woods creates have colour and character and the ‘old British school’ scene just adds to the pastiche.
The book is light reading but a lot of fun in the same vein as the McNally books by Lawrence Sanders. Like Sanders, Woods’ leading character is a romance, an oenologist and knowledgeable in the kitchen. Woods skirts the topic of romance, wine and food not to the same depth as Lawrence but enough to add colour and flavour to the story.
If you are looking for light reading that is entertaining and enjoyable reading, you cannot go wrong with Stuart Woods, definitely not with Dead in the Water.