Santa Fe Rules (Ed Eagle)
by Stuart Woods
Review by Don Metzler
Harper Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061711633
Date: 01 January 2009 List Price $9.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Movie producer Wolf Willett is stunned when he opens his daily New York Times. In the bottom right-hand corner of the page is a brief article announcing that his best friend, film director Jack Tinney, has been found dead in Wolf's Santa Fe home, victim of a shotgun blast to the head. More startling yet is the information that follows. There were two additional corpses in the room: that of Willett's young wife Julia, and the body of Wolf himself!
Wolf had just left Santa Fe the day before, on his way to Los Angeles to spend Thanksgiving with Julia. Both Julia and Jack had been in Los Angeles, not Santa Fe, to the best of Wolf's recollection. Unfortunately, his recollection of the last few days is not something to be relied upon. He can inexplicably remember nothing at all about the 24 hours prior to his departure from Santa Fe.
When Wolf turns up alive, he immediately becomes the Santa Fe Police Department's number one suspect. After all, the victims had been murdered in Wolf's home, with his own shotgun. And the police detectives don't have much reason to buy his claim of memory loss. So Wolf hires hotshot criminal attorney Ed Eagle to help him. After listening to Wolf's story, Eagle suggests that the first avenue of inquiry should be into Julia's past. Julia and Wolf had only been married for one year, and from facts that begin to surface after her death, it begins to look as if she was not the person she had claimed to be. There is evidence that the woman who called herself Julia Camden before she married Wolf Willett, was actually born Miriam Schlemmer, and had served prison terms in New York for prostitution, extortion and drug trafficking. Who was she really?
The other essential question that must be answered is: whose body was mistakenly identified as Wolf Willett? And whoever he was, what was he doing in Wolf's house on the night of the murders? Ed Eagle travels to New York to interview Miriam Schlemmer's sister, and hopefully discover some clues that will lead to answers to these questions.
But there is a murderer lurking out there somewhere, and when it begins to look as if Wolf is still in the killer's sights, the search for the truth becomes even more frantic.
Stuart Woods writes in a matter-of-fact, down-to-earth prose style that many readers will find refreshing. While he provides enough background information to get the reader grounded in the story from the outset, he does not waste time or pages with a lot of flowery nonsense. His characters are readily identifiable, so that we never find ourselves getting confused as to who is who.
However, as in others of Woods' novels, Santa Fe Rules suffers from occasional lapses of behavioral logic. There are instances of police procedure and conduct by attorneys that do not ring true. The time line in Woods' stories is sometimes hard to follow. And his main characters seem to have a propensity to fall in love at the drop of a hat. But for the reader who is willing to look past these minor discrepancies, Woods does spin a good yarn, full of action, romance and high adventure. And, again like others of Woods' books, the high adventure of Santa Fe Rules propels the story to a dramatic and unexpected conclusion.
Santa Fe Rules was originally published in 1992, and this current reprinting, along with the reprinting of several others of Woods' novels, attests to his continued popularity as a mystery writer.