A standalone novel from Stuart Woods, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Stone Barrington and Holly Barker series...
Murder is not a spectator sport.
Chuck Chandler has choked on more than one occasion—first as a pro tennis player at Wimbledon, then as a womanizing coach at posh tennis clubs around the country. Now at Key West's Old Racquet Club, Chuck gets involved with the wrong married woman—the enticing Clare Carras, married to an enigmatic older man—and soon he is in way over his head.
Enter Tommy Sculley, a retired New York homicide detective who has just joined the Key West force, and his young green partner, Daryl Haynes, who turns out to be smarter than he looks. Up to their necks in an investigation of a bizarre apparent homicide, the two detectives barely keep afloat in murky waters. Events take them from the Florida Keys to Los Angeles and back, as a plot emerges that involves not only the dangerous Clare, but a furious West Coast mob boss determined to get back what is his at any cost.
Woods (Chiefs; Imperfect Strangers) writes a no-frills thriller that moves right along and carries the reader with it. There's no atmosphere to speak of, the psychology is elementary, the characters strictly from stock; but as a creator of a taut narrative that explodes with legitimate surprises, he won't let you down. Chuck Chandler is a middle-aged tennis pro with a yen for the ladies. Once, at Wimbledon many years ago, he choked at the vital moment and lost what could have been a career-making match. Now, living on his boat, he is the new coach at a club on Key West--and into his life comes Clare Carras, a gorgeous woman married to a mysterious, wealthy husband apparently unconcerned about her wandering eye. In no time, she and Chuck are between the sheets, but when husband Harry drowns in a highly suspicious diving accident, she makes sure it is Chuck who is the immediate suspect. Only a new member of the Key West force, a former New York cop called Tommy Sculley, believes Chuck didn't do it, but his skeptical chief demands a fast arrest. There are several killings, a tense boat chase and a series of sudden switches before a denouement in which someone is unmasked as the utterly duplicitous black widow who has already been revealed to the reader. There's some awkwardness about how this revelation is accomplished, but it doesn't seriously detract from a fast, lively read. 100,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; HarperAudio; author tour.
A real old fashioned whodunit. Great read. Six stars ...or more.