Publication Date: September 18, 2012
In Severe Clear by Stuart Woods, a government agency monitoring transmissions between Al-Qaeda operatives hears a transmission with two English words—The Arrington. Coincidentally, a hotel named The Arrington that will cater to the rich and famous is opening soon on the grounds of an estate once owned by famous movie star Vance Calder after whose widow the hotel is named. Stone Barrington, second husband of the late Arrington Calder, sharp-as-a-tack lawyer and general all around ladies’ man finds himself pulled into international intrigue to keep the Presidents of the U.S. and Mexico safe when they grace the hotel with a historic meeting on opening day. Severe Clear (Stone Barrington) is the twenty-fourth novel in the Stone Barrington series.
I have been on the Stone Barrington train for a long time. A good friend, who has introduced me to a number of great authors, introduced me to the novels of Stuart Woods. I find the reads to be quick and entertaining, and the characters mostly light and fun in a sense that you have danger, but it’s not too serious. Woods is a true cozy author. The Stone Barrington series was a special favorite a the books were quick and fun. I met with an old friend to find out what woman had dumped him now and what scrape he’d get himself into next.
Things have always been too easy for Stone. He’s an ask-for-it and it-happens kind of guy. No mystery is too deep and difficult that the elements can’t just fall into place. He is the guy who, when recruited by the C.I.A., chose a manner of investigation that entailed no secrets. “I’m with the C.I.A.” was the first thing he told everyone about himself. This element of Stone is something I relished before these last few books. The last few books are taking easy to a bit of an extreme. Do the baddies need jobs at the hotel? POOF (to borrow from my friend), it’s done. Does some higher-up need to know about a guy that he really, logically, wouldn’t know? POOF that’s done!
Add to that the character’s tendency to over-share. If a character asks someone who they are in a book, you’re going to get not only where they were born, but where they went to school, their life story. Do you want to know an ulterior motive that a character has? Just ask and he or she will tell you. In one scene in the book, Harp (the P.I.) tracks someone likely aiding the terrorists and he not only goes along with what she says but recites his life story and what they were doing as though he had practiced in front of a mirror.
Don’t get me wrong; this was not the worst book I’ve ever read. It was more or less typical Stone. You have a problem, and working through the book progresses the problem. We see a crossover to the Holly Barker and possible movement in her storyline. Will we see another Holly Barker novel? Things were never so easy for her as they were for Stone. If you’d like a bit of a tougher cookie and real police work, Holly Barker is a series to check out.
One bonus in this book is that we did not see Teddy Fay, who by Wikipedia’s account, has appeared in four of Stuart Wood’s series a total of seven times. He is the baddie who simply cannot be caught—even when it seems he might have been any number of times.
I highly recommend the Stone Barrington series but advise you don’t start with this one. I have enjoyed Stone a great deal but find Severe Clear and the last few books since he married Arrington (despite her eventual departure from the series — already spoiled above) a little lackluster.
On a positive note, we once again got to “see” Stone’s best friend, Dino, naked. A seeming obsession of Woods — steak, scotch and naked Dino. We also saw Dino and Stone “interviewing” new restaurants. Each book started with a visit to Elaine’s’, but when the real Elaine in New York died, Woods tipped his hat to her and acknowledged her importance in the series as a character based on a real person and place and wrote about that tragic event as well as the need to find a new “home base.”
Stuart Woods’s recent Stone Barrington novel, Collateral Damage (Stone Barrington) was released on January 8, 2013.
Read an excerpt and buy Severe Clear by Stuart Woods on