Once upon a time, Stuart Woods could put together a readable, if lightweight story, just something adequate to pass the time with. Maybe a flght or a lazy day on the beach. Not any more. His last few Stone Barrington novels have been unbearable for me and now Woods destroys his Ed Eagle character.
I don't like divulging a lot of the plot of any book because someone else might find "Santa Fe Dead" enjoyable and I don't want to ruin for them.
To make a long story short, Ed Eagle is supposedly the top trial attorney in New Mexico. The story opens as a continuation of the last Eagle book, where his wife took off with some of his money and ultimately tried to kill him. Now she is on trial for the murder of two strangers she mistook for Eagle and his girlfriend. Barbara Eagle escapes from the courthouse in a scene that, like so many others in the book, is simply unbelievable under any circumstances. The trial narrative, what little there is, is also unbelievable as is the jury acquitting her. There is, in fact, nothing believable in the entire book. Not a single bit of the plot; not a single character.
The book is filled with gratuitous sex scenes that serve no purpose except perhaps to titillate any teenage boys who might pick the book up - which wouldn't be a wise idea because, as in the Stone Barrington series, all the characters are never more than a few paragraphs away from consuming still more alcohol.
Eagle is just so well connected. For example, though he lives in New Mexico, he has a concealed carry permit for California. The LA chief of police is his pal, which helps Woods avoid the burden of actually creating a story. Every time Eagle needs something, he just calls his pal, the chief or some other soul. Eagle never does anything - and Woods never has to actually resort to inventiveness.
Eagle's girlfriend isn't even well developed enough to be a stereotype, much less a character. But she does manage to kill a couple of people with absolutely no troublesome involvement with the law.
Eagle flies about in his airplane, which helps avoid all kinds of plot complications and little things like toting guns from place to place.
As soon as Eagle's ex-wife goes on the lam, a lawyer gets charges for escaping lifted. And the former Mrs. Eagle meets a newly minted billionaire. Within days, she marries him, but continues on her murderous ways. Yeah, truly believable.
In the meantime, Woods introduces what at first appears to be an unrelated sub-plot when a movie producer phones Eagle from Rome with a story that his wife and stepson may have been kidnapped. The guy doesn't call the police, he calls Eagle, a total stranger. Eagle finds that the wife and stepson have been murdered and is now the lawyer for Don Wells, a husband and father who doesn't appear to grieve over his loss. Perhaps it is because his dead wife is a centi-millionaire by inheritance and he stands to get it all?
Woods is a decent writer and he turns out good, if often hacknyed, dialog. But the editing is awful in this book. In the first few pages, there were errors from the merely sloppy ("lead" for "led") to the ridiculous: one of the innumerable drinks consumed starts off as bourbon, becomes scotch and than transformed into bourbon again. Later in the book, you can see where Woods or his supposed editor became so sloppy that an even that occurred two pages earlier is denied, like it never happened.
There is no real story here. Every thing is patched together by the merest coincidence instead of being the product of actual plotting and story development. There is no suspense and the characters are totally unbelievable.
As I said, Woods does write well, so if you are facing a long flight or are trapped in an airport waiting for a delayed flight or simply want to kiss a few hours goodbye forever, it is possible that you might enjoy "Santa Fe Dead". I read every page myself, more in awe of how low Woods had sunk, rather than the quality of the story.