Orchid Beach, thriller No. 18, finds Stuart Woods trying out his first female protagonist, with mixed results. After unsuccessfully charging a colonel with sexual harassment, Maj. Holly Barker musters out of the Army and into the Orchid Beach, Fla., police department. Her first task as deputy chief of police is to investigate the double murder of her new boss and his best friend. Barker — tough and tight-lipped — is fun to watch as she maneuvers among city politicians and wary colleagues, one of whom may be the murderer. But unfortunately Woods tangles his promising yarn by involving Barker in an inane romance with a public defender. After a slew of best-sellers, he should know better. C+

Orchid Beach
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