|Published: 1998, Harper||1998, Harper|
|No. of Pages:397||396|
|Cover Price: 7.50||$7.50 US|
Stuart Woods’ Orchid Beach is the first novel in the popular Holly Barker series. Holly was an officer in the military police, filed a sexual harassment complaint against a high-ranking officer who was unfairly found not guilty, and retired to take a job as deputy chief of police for a small Florida town called Orchid Beach because she felt that her military career was over due to the complaint. On Holly’s first day on the job, Chief of Police Chet Marley, a friend of her father who served with him in Vietnam, is shot. During Holly’s investigation of the shooting, she visits Chet’s best friend, Hank Doherty, and finds that he has been murdered. Hank’s dog, a well-trained Doberman pinscher named Daisy, is sent home with Holly, and she ends up keeping her. Chet previously told Holly that he was uncovering evidence that someone in his police department was a traitor, but did not specify who or what the issues were; he told her that he would discuss it with her when she came on the job. He is in a coma and cannot give her any information.
While Holly is getting to know the town and is driving through the neighborhoods, she discovers Palmetto Gardens, an extremely affluent neighborhood; the security guards won’t let her in, even though it is in her jurisdiction. They call the head of security, who, coincidentally, also served in Vietnam with Holly’s dad, and he takes her on a tour. Later, he invites Holly and her dad to play golf. Holly is very suspicious of this development, not only because of the high security, but also because of the secrecy. When Holly meets Jackson Oxenhandler, a defense attorney who ends up being her love interest, she learns that some of the security guards were previously policemen in Miami and were fired for committing major violent felonies.
As the story unfolds, Holly puts herself in danger while trying to solve the shootings, as well as investigating Palmetto Gardens. Daisy saves her from a terrible rape and murder, and she shoots a vicious killer. Some of the bad guys are quite predictable, but there are also surprises in the end.
One of the members of the city counsel is a car dealer who does the maintenance on the Palmetto Gardens vehicles. He tries to get Holly fired and votes against her when she is up for the chief position. Woods does not address what happens to this man, or whether he is a good or bad guy, so the reader is left hanging. Hopefully it will be addressed in the next novel of the series.
Woods has a very straightforward style of writing, and tells the story simply. Unlike some other popular mainline suspense/thrillers, this novel has no overt sex or violence, and could almost be considered a “cozy” since it is quite tame. It does however, keep the reader’s interest, and is a fun, quick read that doesn’t require any serious thinking. For those suspense/thriller fans who want to start a new easy-to read series, Orchid Beach is a good one to start with. Holly Barker is tough, likeable, and even makes mistakes.
This book was purchased with personal funds and no promotion of the book was solicited by the author or publisher.
This book may be purchased at Amazon: Orchid Beach (Holly Barker)