4 stars out of 5
Maybe I'm just going soft in my old age, or maybe I've just come to realize that a respite from the shoot-'em-up, gory entrails and head games in my usual reading fare is a good thing. But the fact is, for the most part I actually enjoyed this, the 41st in the Stone Barrington series. Yes, it's borderline insipid (there's a reason I refer to the guy as Stone Yawnington) and the "action" is more than a bit hard to believe. But overall, it was, well, sort of fun - and easily read in one day.
As usual, everything (except perhaps Stone's ever-increasing wealth) is vastly understated as the prominent, world-traveling New York attorney tries to mind his own business. Somebody get murdered? Let's drink to that. Almost blown up by a bomb? How about dinner at Stone's favorite Patroon - or better still, in the formal dining room of one of his mansions? Perhaps this exchange between Stone and his great friend Kate - the current U.S. President - says it best:
"This is wonderful," Kate said. "All our problems solved before dinner!"
"We do what we can," Stone said.
This one begins as Stone is sailing alone in Penobscot Bay off the coast of Maine. He's so relaxed that he falls asleep, waking to find himself surrounded by fog as thick as pea soup. Suddenly, there's a big bang, and he's thrown overboard and knocked unconscious. Turns out he was hit by a much larger boat; luckily (as always seems to be the case in these books), somebody on the big boat noticed and pulled him out of the water. Happily for Stone, the boat owner is the well-heeled doctor-owner of a highly successful health-care facility, who is vacationing with his (you guessed it) beautiful, unmarried daughter - also a doctor. They patch Stone back up, invite him to a lobster dinner and - later - provide him with a new and improved sailboat courtesy of their insurance company.
As they all get to know each other (Stone and the daughter exceptionally well, BTW), Stone learns that a clinic takeover bid is in the early stages, and the good doctor is worried. The takeover, it seems, is led by a particularly nasty guy who made a takeover of his own after his company's former CEO got blown to bits when he tried to open a "protected" briefcase he'd stolen (a reference to a previous book). Stone, of course, is indignant, and immediately agrees to help thwart the takeover by rounding up the half a billion dollars needed to make a counter-offer.
Understandably, that doesn't sit well with the bad guy, who decides to fight back. From there on, the story turns into a race to determine who will remain standing - the bad guy or Stone (the latter of whom gets loads of help from his New York Police Commissioner buddy Dino and a few other well-placed colleagues). Stone, if nothing else the consummate ladies' man, manages to do some of his best work in the bedroom (I'll caution, for those who might give a whoop, that such antics by Stone and his friends seem to take place a little more often, and a little more explicitly, in this book than in others).
Fans of these books can be sure, however, that Stone himself will live to see another one - and we can be pretty confident he'll end up with more money, more properties, more friends in high places and another woman or two in yet other ports as well. And so it goes. Now you'll have to excuse me - I'm off to read something that challenges what few brain cells I have left.
Fast and Loose by Stuart Woods (G.P. Putnam's Sons, April 2017); 364 pp.