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Monday, October 26, 2015


4 stars out of 5

This marks the 35th book in the author's Stone Barrington series and, as has been the custom of late, it's a quickie at just 320 pages (although in fairness, the last couple have been even shorter). I also must admit that I've taken to calling the filthy rich, New York-based attorney "Stone Yawnington" simply because the action - what there is of it - is so understated that it's barely noticeable.

Maybe I've become used to it by now, though - I've read almost all of the books in the series - because this one surprised me by being quite enjoyable. Yes, the dialogue still borders on banal, but the story is interesting and (dare I say it) even a bit exciting in spots.

It begins as Barrington's majordomo, Joan, informs him that she forgot to put a board meeting of one of his companies on his calendar - and oh by the way, it's to take place at noon the following day in Rome. With not the slightest hint of annoyance, he takes 5 minutes to arrange his travel, have his clothing and personal airplane for his return trip shipped to Rome and reserved a table for dinner that night complete with his choice of wine (okay, I'm kidding about that last one, but you get the point). His eleventh-hour reservation means he's relegated to the last available seat on the plane, poor baby, but things begin looking up when a beautiful woman is seated next to him. Just before take-off, as Barrington's always-good luck would have it, not one, but two seats open up in first-class - and he and his lovely companion move to more comfortable space. They get to know each other during the flight -- and for the record, by Chapter 5 they know each other really well (wink, wink).

The story, though, is the reason for the board meeting: The one-item agenda is to vote on purchasing a site for a new Arrington hotel (named for Barrington's late wife, who was richer than God). Approval is readily given - why the board couldn't have looked at photos and voted by phone is a mystery to me, but hey = I'm not among the rich or the famous.  Barrington then contacts his hotel developer associate and gives the go-ahead. Another developer had started building a hotel on the site, but that project was abandoned, so plans call for utilizing the existing framework for the new Arrington.

But then, disaster strikes; almost before the ink is dry on the site purchase agreement, a mysterious fire destroys the existing structure. A little digging (pun intended) turns up evidence that the fire is a warning; apparently, new construction falls within the purview of the local Mafia, and in particular, an especially nasty character named Leonardo Casselli who's wanted in the United States. Leo, it seems, wants to make it clear that his palm must be greased by anyone encroaching on his territory. A few other "accidents" happen, and the chase is on to track down and arrest Casselli before he kills Barrington, the law enforcement heavyweights who have joined him and/or, of course, the fair lady who is the current apple of his eye.

As the more recent Barrington novels have gone, this is one captured my attention a bit more than most; if nothing else, it would make a good read on an airplane trip (even if you're sitting in coach) or wait in a doctor's office -  I finished it easily in a single day.

Foreign Affairs by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons, October 2015); 320 pp.

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