“New York Dead” by Stuart Woods

Woods, Stuart. New York Dead (1991)  
HarperPaperbacks, 325 pages, $5.99 paperback  
ISBN 0-06-109080-8

Having read two other Stone Barrington novels (Dirt and Dead in the Water) previously, I decided to go back and be properly introduced to this character whom Stuart Woods can’t seem to let go.

In New York Dead Stone Barrington is a New York City police officer nearly ready to return to active duty after being shot in the knee 11 weeks earlier. While walking home (to rehab the knee) after a nightcap at Elaine’s, he happens to look up just in time to see a woman plummeting, spread-eagled, to earth. After calling for help, Barrington races up to the adjacent building’s penthouse just in time to hear someone running down the stairs. He takes off in pursuit but cannot catch the fleeing suspect.

The fallen woman is Sasha Nijinsky, a big-time New York news broadcaster. The case takes a bizarre twist when the ambulance taking Nijinsky, who apparently survived the fall, to a hospital is broadsided by a fire truck. In the ensuing chaos, Nijinsky seems to have disappeared.

Because this is a high-profile case, the police are under pressure to bring in a suspect, no matter how flimsy the evidence might be. During the investigation Barrington learns a lot both about himself and about the politics of police work.

The reader also learns a lot about Stone Barrington: about his parents, his upbringing, his education (he completed law school but never took the bar exam because he’d become fascinated by police work), and how he came to own a valuable house in an exclusive New York City neighborhood. The reader also learns about Barrington’s susceptibility to beautiful, sexy women as he becomes obsessed with Cary Hilliard during the investigation.

At the beginning of New York Dead Elaine tells Stone he’s “too good looking to be a cop. Too smart, too.” By the end of the novel Barrington has done a lot of soul-searching, passed the bar exam, changed careers, and become the suave, debonair ladies’ man we meet in the subsequent novels. I think that if I had read New York Dead before the other books, I would have been disappointed in how Barrington later turns out. 

© 1998 by Mary Daniels Brown

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