CriminOlly thinks: Deeply silly, but definitely entertaining, NY cop thriller. 3/5
Title: New York Dead | Author: Stuart Woods | Series: Stone Barrington #1 | Publisher: HarperCollins | Pages: 404 | Publication date: 1991 | Source: Self-purchased | Content warnings: Yes | Tolerance warning: Yes
I’m not sure I’ve read Stuart Woods before, which is kind of surprising given that he’s written over 70 crime novels since the early 80s. ‘New York Dead’ is the first of his long running Stone Barrington series which now runs to over 60 entries. Barrington is a New York cop turned attorney who does the kind of things that you’d expect – rights wrongs, beds beautiful women and so on.
This debut novel feels very much like an origin story, starting with Barrington as an NYPD detective and following his exit from the force and the establishment of his private practice. This character building is done against the backdrop of his investigation of a mysterious crime that he happens upon in the first chapter – a beautiful female newsreader falling to her apparent death from her apartment window and then disappearing.
This is very much second tier crime writing, but it’s a lot of fun for all that. The plot is wildly implausible but never less than entertaining. Barrington has a habit of stumbling into crimes that defies the laws of statistics, but does at least mean that he’s usually where the action is. He’s also, naturally, cat nip to every woman he meets, including a judge who keeps coming onto him.The characters, whilst not exactly subtle or original, are memorable. There’s a creepy undertaker, a fierce news anchor and Barrington’s Italian American partner at the NYPD.
What lets it all down somewhat is the fact that while the action is pretty snappy, the dialogue is anything but. Something that can lift an average mystery up a level ends up dragging this one down. Conversations feel stilted and lack any wit or sparkle, the characters just saying things to move the story on. There’s also a really nasty vein of homophobia running through the book. Not something that the protagonist actively gets involved in, but also not something he ever challenges.
So, a fun page turner if you fancy something easy to read, but by no means a classic of the genre.
Everyone is always telling Stone Barrington that he’s too smart to be a cop, but it’s pure luck that places him on the streets in the dead of night, just in time to witness the horrifying incident that turns his life inside out.
Suddenly he’s on the front page of every New York newspaper, and his life is hopelessly entwined in the increasingly shocking life (and perhaps death) of Sasha Nijinsky, the country’s hottest and most beautiful television anchorwoman.
No matter where he turns, the case is waiting for him, haunting his nights and turning his days into a living hell. Stone finds himself caught in a perilous web of unspeakable crimes, dangerous friends, and sexual depravity that has throughout it one common thread: Sasha
Content Warning: Homophobia, Rape, Necrophilia
Tolerance Warning: Homophobia