Woods, Stuart

Holly Barker
Cover of ISBN: 0060191813 Orchid Beach (1998)
From Publishers Weekly
After a string of successes based on the escapades of the redoubtable Stone Barrington, Woods (Swimming to Catalina) shifts to a female protagonist in this police procedural, with mostly smooth and satisfying results. Woods's new heroine is Holly Barker, a 37-year-old MP supervisor whose army career comes to a halt when she loses a sexual harassment suit against her superior officer. A friend of her father's offers her a position as a deputy in the small Florida town of the title, but life becomes even more problematic when she gets there and finds that her benefactor is in a coma after having been shot. The body of his best friend is discovered next. The clues quickly lead to an exclusive community for the ultra-rich within Orchid Beach that bears a suspicious resemblance to a military installation, and the trail gets hotter when several corrupt Miami ex-cops turn up on the community's roster of security workers. Aided by local defense attorney Jackson Oxenhandler, Barker gathers a raft of evidence that she turns over to the FBI, which organizes a well-planned assault on the fortress. The climactic raid is somewhat lacking in suspense, but Woods compensates by introducing a charming romantic subplot between Holly and Jackson, and the story gets extra bite from Holly's intriguing relationship with an inherited canine named Daisy, the clairvoyant Doberman that belonged to her mentor. Agent, Anne Sibbald.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Cover of ISBN: 0399147772 Orchid Blues (2001)
From Publishers Weekly
This second thriller in the series Woods inaugurated with Orchid Beach starts with a bang a literal one. While series heroine Holly Barker, a former military police commander turned police chief of smalltown Orchid Beach, Fla., waits at the local courthouse to marry lawyer Jackson Oxenhandler, her fianc‚ gets himself killed in a shoot-out at Orchid Beach's bank. Once past this shocker of an opening, the thrills quickly deflate. Holly stifles a few sobs, gets back into uniform and sets off to track down the gunmen, a gang of highly organized robbers who planned to heist $4 million in payroll cash. It soon becomes clear that they aren't ordinary robbers, however, appearing to have some connection to a weird little town in a neighboring county, where the average resident is white, male and a gun nut. In the course of his meandering tale, Woods deepens his portraits of Holly and her father, Ham, a retired army noncom, and dog lovers should enjoy the antics of Daisy, the Doberman diva who is Holly's constant companion. Stone Barrington, the cop-turned-lawyer from such Woods bestsellers as L.A. Dead, makes a couple of important cameo appearances. But pages of lifeless dialogue and too much dead air in an already thin narrative eventually stifle most of the book's energy. Woods knows how law enforcement agencies from local cop shops to the Secret Service work, and his action scenes are clean and sharp. But in between there are a lot of empty spaces. 16-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Cover of ISBN: 0399149295 Blood Orchid (2002)
In Woods's 24th novel-his third in the Holly Barker series (after Orchid Blues)-the prolific bestselling novelist revisits savvy, sexy ex-MP officer (and her dog, Daisy), now police chief of the small Florida east coast town of Orchid Beach. As the fast-paced but fluffy and rather predictable thriller begins, two out of three Miami bidders for a glitzy, gated residential complex with golf course are shot and killed. The third bidder, orchid fancier Ed Shine, a former New York real estate mogul and new resident of Orchid Beach, narrowly escapes the same fate. Shine renames his newly acquired property Blood Orchid, after an exotic hybrid blossom he has developed-a name that seems gruesomely prophetic when it turns out that the Miami mob may be involved with the property. Meanwhile, Barker, investigating the case and trying to discover who is bugging her beach house, spots the intruder's van from the plane of her flying instructor, Ginny (who is also her dad Ham's new bedmate). The two women make an emergency landing on the beach and scare the perp away, but his body is soon found floating in the Indian River. The trail leads to a shifty Cuban locksmith in Fort Lauderdale and the late intruder's fiance‚. Enter a Miami restaurateur with mob ties, and corpses pile up as the plot thickens. Woods writes strong action scenes, but his usual flair for tight, creative plotting is sadly missed here.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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