BEL-AIR DEAD, by Stuart Woods, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 2011, hardcover, 293 pages, $25.95.
Over the past 30 years, Stuart Woods has developed quite the family of characters. What’s intriguing is the way he shifts characters among his various series.
“Bel-Air Dead” is the 20th book by the part-time Mount Desert Island resident featuring cop-turned-attorney Stone Barrington. Also present are such regulars as his faithful ex-partner Dino Bacchetti and Mike Freeman, head of international protection outfit Strategic Services, which has been a steady presence in recent Barrington novels. But also making appearances are Ed Eagle, from the series about the Santa Fe attorney, and Rick Barron, from “Prince of Beverly Hills” and “Beverly Hills Dead.”
This time out, Barrington is recruited by old flame Arrington Calder to handle her shares of Centurion Studios stock during a takeover bid. Barron is the longtime head of Centurion, one of the last of the old-school studios in Hollywood.
Wanting to take over the property on which the studio sits and turn it into a resort is Terry Prince, a businessman with connections to the drug trade.
Unfortunately, those who line up with Barrington and Barron in the stock struggle end up injured — or dead.
Among the mysterious figures in “Bel-Air Dead” are a woman with no past and a woman with too much history, Eagle’s crazy ex-wife, Barbara.
The novel is one Big Business tug of war, with Barrington in the unfamiliar role of financial overseer. Along the way, he himself becomes a wealthy man, after years of just getting by.
“Bel-Air Dead” is an enjoyable glimpse into the lives of the rich and famous, with a little murder and mayhem sprinkled in. Once again, Woods’ work goes down smoothly, like the Knob Creek bourbon that Barrington favors.