Relax and Be Entertained: Barrington Books by the Dozen
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 11, 2021 -- As those who may have read my columns over the years know, I'm a fan of history. I'll read historical novels, biographies, books about various periods, war stories and just about anything about times that have gone before. As fascinating and readable as all these tomes are, however, there are times I simply want to relax and be entertained.

Such was the case recently when I opted to read not one, but three books in the Stone Barrington mystery/thriller series by Stuart Woods. A prolific author, Woods has written more than five dozen Barrington books, publishing anywhere from two to four novels a year. And that's just one of several fictional series he writes! (Of note, Woods says he alone writes each book unlike the very productive best-selling author James Patterson who has acknowledged that others contribute.)

For those unfamiliar with Woods' protagonist, New York born Stone Barrington is a former New York Police Department detective. Forced out due to conflicts with his superiors, he gets a law degree and signs on to act "of counsel" to a prestigious New York law firm. Translation: He handles cases with whom the firm would rather not be associated. Given his expensive tastes, that career turnaround appears to have provided Barrington with a more-than-comfortable income and lifestyle.

As a globetrotting widower, somewhere in his forties, who is intelligent, charming, wealthy and the possessor of a sense of humor, he's definitely not without female companionship. Lots of it. (The books are awash in sex, which you will either enjoy or overlook.) But he's a very likable playboy. I must admit that I've occasionally wished that I could have had the "dating" experiences he had when I was young and single.

The women who populate Stone Barrington's life are anything but stereotypical. Secretary of State Holly Barker, an on-again/off-again lover, is even running for president. Strong-willed, with successful careers, the women are as likely to come on to Barrington as he is to them. Unsurprisingly, some critics believe that Barrington represents aspects of Woods' own very successful life and career.

The trio of Barrington novels I chose was a function of library availability rather than an attempt to read in chronological order, which isn't necessary to enjoy his escapades. However, some suggest reading 1991's New York Dead, the first in the series, to familiarize yourself with Stone's backstory.

A Delicate Touch is book number 48 and was published in December, 2018. In it, the ex-wife of Stone's former NYPD partner (now the police commissioner) asks Stone to open a safe in the home of her late father, a former Mafioso. Of his many talents, literally cracking open a safe is not in his wheelhouse. He enlists a cohort's aid and, when the safe is opened, there's the expected cash and financial paperwork for more. There are also documents with damaging information about another character, information that will put lives in jeopardy.

There's politics aplenty, including a plot line about election rigging. Some consider A Delicate Touch one of Woods' better entries although it garnered negative comments from those not sharing Stone's political leanings.

A naked Barrington is relaxing on the deck of his yacht in Florida in Contraband, book number 50 in the series, published in August, 2019. When a plane crashes into the water by his boat, he leaps in and pulls the pilot to safety. Bonus: Barrington meets a beautiful female rescue diver who's also a detective with the local police department. Knowing Stone, you know where this encounter leads.

When the pilot, the cargo and the plane vanish, Stone heads back to New York, where he gets involved with a new lover and a new plotline that may--or may not--relate to what happened in Florida.

Stealth is the next book in the series and was published in October, 2019. After previous consulting work for the CIA, Stone, in England, is being formally recruited to spy for the agency with a possible title of Deputy Director for Special Operations or Senior Adviser. It's an opportune change given the life-threatening mishaps that befell him after being invited to a training session at MI6 Station Two in the Scottish Highlands.

The plot involves a revenge-seeking senior MI6 officer, a blackmailer forced out of the service by Stone with the help of the female Director of MI6. The former MI6 agent is feeling the squeeze from Russians who want him to ensure the assassination of both Stone and the Director. There are multiple attempts on Stone's life but, no spoiler, he survives.

Stone Barrington isn't everyone's cup of tea, but Woods has had more than a few New York Times best-sellers over the years with this series. And, given the number of stars in Amazon reviews, it is clear that there is an audience for his adventures.

My wife has read a number of Barrington books and I wrote somewhat harshly about 2012's Unnatural Acts. As I read this trio, however, I was taken by their lighthearted tone and the appeal of the irreverent Barrington. Though formulaic, they are truly smile-inducing reads.

This isn't great literature, but they hit the spot as a welcome respite from ugly realities that surround us socially, economically, environmentally and politically. With so many titles from which to choose, you could easily fill up your downtime on or off the road with a Barrington title or two.