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Reckless Abandon by Stuart Woods


Rating: (Mildly Recommended)


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Stuart Woods is a prolific writer who has brought together two of his serial characters in his latest book, Reckless Abandon. An attempt to bring together fans of both Woods’ Stone Barrington series and his Holly Barker series, may please some fans of each character. For me, it came across as a desperate attempt to breathe some life into two characters that Woods has pretty much exhausted. Keeping with the serial theme, there are serial murders that Woods and Barker work together to solve. By the middle of the book, I really didn’t care, but that might be because it started to rain and there was something more interesting to look at. Other readers will find this an ideal beach book: you can pick up and put down with ease. Here’s an excerpt of all of Chapter 17, pp. 82-87:


Stone took Holly to the Four Seasons, because it was the most ele­gant New York restaurant he could think of, and because it was within walking distance.


Holly had spent the afternoon shopping and had come home with bags from Armani and Ralph Lauren, the result of which was a black Armani dress that made Stone forget he had had too much sex the night before. They settled into a good table in the Pool Room.


“What would you like to drink?” Stone asked.


“A vodka gimlet, three-to-one, straight up, shaken so cold the bar­tender’s fingers stick to the shaker.”


“Two,” Stone said to the waiter.


“Would you like a particular kind of vodka?” the waiter asked.


“Anything will do,” she replied. When the waiter had gone she said, “Vodka is nothing but grain alcohol that has been cut in half with water. I don’t know what the big deal is about brands. It’s not as if it’s eighteen-year-old Scotch.”


“I agree,” Stone said. “Do you always give such explicit direction when you order a drink?”

“Just with vodka gimlets,” she replied. “Bartenders never mea­sure, and they always put too much vodka in them.”


“You’re a control freak, aren’t you?”


“Just with vodka gimlets.”


“The dress is. . . You make that dress look gorgeous.”


“Well put, and just in time. I thought you were going to tell me the dress makes me look gorgeous.”


“Certainly not,” said Stone, who had been about to do just that. “You don’t look like a cop at all this evening.”


“Even higher praise! You know, there just isn’t any way to look feminine in a police uniform, unless you’re wearing shorts.”


“You wear shorts?”


“We’re in Florida, remember? Actually, I don’t, but I encourage some of my female officers to.”


“Which female officers?”


“The ones who look good in shorts. It encourages tourism.”


Their drinks arrived, and they sipped them appreciatively.


“Now that’s a vodka gimlet,” Holly said. “You can tell if it’s right by the color. It should have a pretty, green tinge.”


“And it does.”


“Stone, I need your advice about something.”




“This is legal advice and must remain confidential.”




“I have five million seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars I don’t know what to do with.”


“Buy a jet airplane.”


“I don’t think so.”


“You want me to introduce you to my broker?”



“What do you want to do with the money?”


“I haven’t the faintest idea.”


“You could give it to your favorite charity.”

“That would involve a paper trail.”


“Uh-oh,” he said


“What’s the matter?”


“This is illegal, isn’t it?”


“That’s what I wanted to ask you about.”


“Okay, where’d you get the money?”


“Well, last year I was investigating this thing where the proceeds of various crimes were being put into a vault back home. I was watching some of these guys unloading a van filled with suitcases and boxes. And, wanting to know what was in them, I snatched one of them, a large briefcase, which turned out to be filled with five mil­lion seven hundred and sixty thousand dollars.”


“And where is the money now?”


“In a tree.”


“What do you mean?”


“I mean, I climbed a tree and wedged the briefcase into the branches.”


“This is in Florida?”




“They have hurricanes in Florida. What if there’s a hurricane?”


“Then there will be hundred-dollar bills all over Indian River County, and my problem will be solved.”


“All right, let’s go to basics: This is illegal; you’ve committed a crime.”


“I figured.”


“Why did you do this?”


“Well, I took the briefcase to find out if they were transporting cash, so I could hardly hand it back to them. I hid it, and I didn’t even think about it until a couple of weeks after we had arrested the whole bunch.”


“Why didn’t you give it back then?”


“Give it back to whom? The criminals? They were all in jail.”


“Did you tell anybody about this?”

“Yes. I told Grant Harrison, my FBI friend. Well, former friend. This was before he became such a bureaucratic ass.”


“And he didn’t arrest you?”


“I told you, we were, ah, friendly at the time.”


“How friendly?”


“Very friendly.”


“And he didn’t do anything about this?”


“About the money? No.”


“Well, that makes him an accessory”


“Funny, that’s what I told him the last time he mentioned it to me.”


“What did he say?”


“He didn’t say anything. In fact, he stopped talking altogether for quite a while.”


“Why don’t you just give it to the FBI?”


“I suggested that to Grant, but he turned pale. He wanted to know how I could explain the long delay in turning it in. I told him zL’e would have to explain.”


“And what was his reaction?”


“He told me to shut up and never mention it to him again.”


“Were there any witnesses to this conversation?”


“No, we were in bed at the time.”


“Then I guess you weren’t wearing a wire.”


“Good guess.”


“I don’t think I’ve ever run into a problem quite like this,” Stone said.


“Me, either.”


“I suppose you’ve thought about spending it.”


“Well, yes, but I have everything I need, and I can afford a lot more, so what would I do with it?”


“You could put a big ribbon on it, leave it on the doorstep of your favorite orphanage, ring the bell, and run like hell.”


“I’ve thought of that, but I’m sure somebody would see me, and I’d get caught. Anyway, I don’t have a favorite orphanage.”

“You could just leave it in the tree until some lucky lumberjack chops it down and finds the money.”


“I’d worry about it. I’m tired of worrying about it.”


“How about this: You give the money to your lawyer. . .“


“Yeah, sure.”


“Wait a minute, I’m not finished. Then your lawyer calls the local chief of police and says he has a client who has come upon some money that he suspects is illegal, and the client wants to turn it in, if he can do so anonymously.”


“I’m the local chief of police. Aren’t we talking about a conspiracy?”


“A conspiracy to do the right thing?”


“I think you’re beginning to see the size of my problem.”


“Yes, I am.”


“Stone, you have an airplane, right?”




“There’s an airstrip on the property. Why don’t you and I fly down there tonight, get the money, and bring it back up here. I’ll split it with you, fifty-fifty.”


Stone held up his hands as if to ward her off. “Oh, no, you’re not sucking me into this. Anyway, I’ve had a vodka gimlet. I can’t legally fly for eight hours. By the time we got down there it would be broad daylight.”


“So, we’ll do it tomorrow night.”


“Holly, I need some time to think about this.”


“I’ll bet you know how to get this into an offshore account, don’t you


“Sure, that’s easy. We just fly my airplane down to the Cayman islands, find a bank, deposit it, and fly back. Customs doesn’t search you on the way out.”


“I like the sound of that,” Holly said.


“Of course, we’d have to sign a form saying that we haven’t taken more than five thousand dollars in cash or negotiable instruments out of the country. If we lied about it, that would be a felony.”

“It seems like such a little felony, doesn’t it?”


“That’s it. I’m not having any more to drink.”


“So you can fly?”


“So I’ll stop thinking like this. You’re making me crazy” She leered at him. “It’s about time.”


Later, in bed, they forgot about the money

I had the sense that Woods wrote Reckless Abandon in a flowing way, with little re-writing, and presented the finished book to a publisher who did little editing. Fans will conclude this is not the best he’s written, but may find some enjoyment in the reprise of old characters from two series. Light reading, about as pleasurable as a summer rerun.  

Steve Hopkins, June 25, 2004


ã 2004 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the July 2004 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Abandon.htm


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