|Stuart Woods: Santa Fe Rules|
(Paperbacks), ISBN 0061090891
Author Stuart Woods sure knows how to ruin Thanksgiving. In Santa Fe Rules, big-time L.A. movie producer Wolf Willett ends up stranded at a Grand Canyon lodge while awaiting delivery of an alternator for his private plane. The part broke down as Wolf was flying from Santa Fe to Los Angeles to celebrate Turkey Day with the now dead wife and friend. Wolf realizes why neither answered his calls to L.A. Instead they and some other guy died from shotgun blasts to their heads, which obliterated their faces.
Wolf returns to Santa Fe, contacting the authorities to inform them, ala Mark Twain, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." Announcing his rise from the dead, however, lands him in a heap of trouble. The Santa Fe police peg him as the primary suspect in the slayings. Worse, in New Mexico a capital case conviction leads to a death sentence. A lawyer himself, Wilmot realizes he must find legal counsel. Wilmot retains Ed Eagle, Esq., the preeminent criminal defense lawyer who plays by the "Santa Fe rules," both in and out of court.
Woods creates a convoluted tale of murder and greed, introducing character after character to complicate matters even further. As usual, appearances and reputations prove deceiving. For example, Ed Eagle belongs to a tribe, just not one the reader expects. In the aftermath and investigation of murder, however, romance blooms.
A Santa Fe resident, Woods weaves descriptions of the New Mexico capital and its environs throughout the narrative, providing satisfying local color. For example, Wilderness Gate, the tony neighborhood of Wolf's house, really exists. Woods describes the area. "The subdivision was on the outskirts of the city, in the low mountains to the south." Expensive houses hang on the steep mountainsides with views of the city and surrounding mountains under a large expanse of sky.
Woods evokes the panorama and winter weather in the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Wolf stands on an overlook where "the ground fell away sharply into a forest of winter-bare, silver-skinned aspens; beyond lay Santa Fe to the northwest, and far to the north, visible in the clear mountain air, a peak he had been told was in Colorado, more than a hundred miles away. The wind gusted, tearing at his coat." Reading Santa Fe Rules feels like taking a vacation with a murder mixed in.
And lest we forget, whatever happened to Wolf's missing day?
Lynn I. Miller
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