Putnam, Apr 2002, 24.95, 336 pp.
Stone Barrington is a bit hung over from last night's shocker that his lover is leaving him to marry someone else. So when John Bartholomew asks for his help with retrieving his niece, Erica Burroughs, from her boyfriend, cocaine smuggler Lance Cabot, he accepts. It does help to say yes when the client offers to cover all expenses, reasonable or not, in London for Stone to bring Erica home and get Cabot arrested.
However, the simple job turns quite complicated when Stone not only learns that Erica has no uncle, but there is no John Burroughs. Erica introduces Stone to her sister and the trio attends a party tossed by painter Sarah Buckminster, Stone's former lover. As Sarah's fiancÚ, falls to his death, John and Lance accuse one another of being a vicious spy performing criminal acts. Stone believes both are rogue agents trying to manipulate him as he struggles with whom do you trust.
The latest Stone Barrington tale, THE SHORT FOREVER, feels as if Start Woods could not decide between a who-done-it and an espionage thriller. The story line is action packed and fast-paced, perhaps the speediest of the Barrington tales, but keeps shifting gear as the subplots never smoothly lock in place. The mystery elements feel comfortable, however the spy subplot seems out of sorts for Stone. Still series fans will find Stone, who must have scored more often than Wilt, retains his likable quality as he tries to remain alive amidst the most murky a case he ever has worked.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner