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Family Jewels: A Stone Barrington Novel


Family Jewels: A Stone Barrington Novel

Last week, Stuart Woods debuted his latest Stone Barrington mystery in Edmond, Oklahoma. Fortunately, I was able to attend the signing party and meet him. I came away not only with a signed copy of FAMILY JEWELS, but also a glimpse into the manner in which he plots and fine-tunes his books. The details he writes about aviation are from personal experience. Like Stone, Woods makes his home in varied locations throughout the year.

A query about how he developed Stone Barrington, the savvy and well-to-do lawyer hero of the series, drew an interesting response. In a nutshell, Woods needed a character to witness the aerial free fall of a female victim and Stone became the man. From there, the dashing hero was off and running into adventure. Woods draws a dedicated fan base, and FAMILY JEWELS should highly satisfy all.

"Woods writes his villainous characters well. Money and power drive some to heinous acts.... I found FAMILY JEWELS to be a quick read and highly entertaining."

Stone returns from his English countryside residence to greet a new client in his law office. Carrie Fiske is a tall, slim blonde who is most easy on his sleep-deprived eyes. They exchange pleasantries about their joint love of personal aircraft, comparing types both have flown. Her concern, legally, is that her ex-husband is stalking her. She’s afraid he wants to kill her because of threats made earlier in the marriage. Harvey Biggers, her ex, is the beneficiary in her will. Stone agrees to draft a new will and give her a retired cop for security, with the hope that it will deter the stalker. She discloses that her family fortune comes from the Jarman Shoe Company, a hefty inheritance.

Carrie’s bodyguard gets into a scuffle with a man who may be her former husband and gains the upper hand. Meanwhile, Stone finishes the will and informs his client, who insists that he bring it with him for signature to her East Hamptons estate for the weekend. Beforehand, he enters his office to see that his secretary, Joan, is holding a scuffed-up man with a .45 revolver she keeps on hand. The unwelcome guest is none other than Harvey Biggers, who insists that he is being set up by his ex-wife to be murdered. What will Stone do now, with each accusing the other of an impending crime? Naturally, he cannot represent both and tells Harvey just that.

Stone flies to the Hamptons, complete with the tuxedo he was told to bring. The house on Georgica Pond is a stately mansion. A golden Labrador greets him warmly, licking him and remaining close to his side. Bob is reluctant to sidle up to most guests, but claims Stone as a companion. Carrie introduces her other guests, Nicky and Vanessa Chalmers, and Derek and Alicia Bedford. Nicky exudes wealth, a trust-fund beneficiary. Derek confesses to being an entrepreneur, mostly buying and selling jewelry and other valuables, and plans to help Carrie with a sale of miscellaneous jewelry in her safe.

They visit on a balcony overlooking the grounds when the wind makes an abrupt shift, drawing a repugnant odor in their direction. Bob immediately perks up and takes off for the hedge between the Fiske house and the property next door, with Stone trying to keep up. He rings the doorbell only to find the door unlocked. He and his new canine friend enter and go directly to the source of the smell, an upstairs bedroom, where they find the semi-decayed body of a young woman on the bed. After calling in his discovery to the local authorities, Stone learns that the house belongs to a film director friend of Harvey. The house has been vacant and is currently on the market. The victim is identified as Darla Henry and has been dead for 10-12 weeks.

The plot become more tangled the longer that Stone’s relationship with Carrie continues. As her lawyer, it becomes more personal when she leaves town abruptly, giving him Bob for safekeeping. Later circumstances seal the bond between him and the dog.

Woods writes his villainous characters well. Money and power drive some to heinous acts. Stone will spend more time than he wishes with the unlikable guests from Carrie’s dinner party. I found FAMILY JEWELS to be a quick read and highly entertaining. A series of book signings for this 37th installment of the series will satisfy readers throughout the southern United States. Publishing around four books a year keeps Woods busy and his fans happy.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on April 15, 2016

Family Jewels: A Stone Barrington Novel
by Stuart Woods

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2016
  • Genres: Adventure, Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
  • ISBN-10: 0451477243
  • ISBN-13: 9780451477248