4.5 stars out of 5
Well, I'll be doggone. Just when I'd just about given up on what I've come to call the Stone Yawnington series comes this one - several cuts above the last few I've read. The character's name is Stone Barrington, for the record, and this is, I believe, the 40th in the series.
Author Stuart Woods churns the books out faster than you can say James Patterson, and admittedly, I've missed a few here and there. And although I've always used them as a respite of sorts in between more weighty tomes (i.e., those I get for free in exchange for reviews, which means I have to think about what I'm reading), I've grown weary of the banal banter and nothing-is-exciting attitude of all the characters - most of them filthy rich. Oh, there's a dead body in the wine cellar? Drat. I'll call my secretary to have it removed. While we wait, do you think this 1848 cabernet is the proper accompaniment for the dinner lamb?
All of that is in this one as well; it begins with Stone in Santa Fe with companion Holly Barker, an adviser to the U.S. President (also a Stone bestie, BTW). Within a short time, he writes a check for a Porsche and accepts an invitation from the former President - the husband of the current President who preceded his wife as President - to have dinner with a group of influential friends followed by (what else?) an opera.
The former President uses the meeting guise to entrust a reluctant Stone, a prominent New York attorney, with a package, the contents of which apparently have the potential to incriminate him and thus kill his wife's chances for a second term. Needless to say, other rather nasty individuals are interested in getting their hands on it as well - most notably, perhaps, an ultra-powerful and, if possible, wealthier-than-Stone businessman who is backing an independent candidate for a run in the next Presidential election.
The chase takes Stone and Holly, who's out of the White House for a little mandated R & R, to other locations including Stone's fabulous home in Maine (it has its own airstrip, for gosh sake). That part, I admit, added to my enjoyment of the book; places like Rockland and Mount Desert Island - the latter home to Acadia National Park - are places from which I have treasured vacation memories (not to mention a ton of photographs).
The best part, though, is the description of the clearly unqualified independent candidate, who some (including the author, I suspect) might say resembles the current U.S. President-Elect: "They'll trust me...I'm a wealthy man because I know how to get people to trust me," he boasts.
"His chief talent seems to be the ability to tell people what they want to hear," comes Stone's assessment.
In all, it's a fun, easy-to-read book (I polished it off in less than a day of spare time) and one of the best Barrington books I've read. I think backsliding fans like me will find it entertaining.
Below the Belt by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons, January 2017); 332 pp.