on April 27, 2004
CAPITAL CRIMES, a slapdash poltical novel, involves the FBI's pursuit of a serial killer who is targeting well-known right wing figures - a talk show host, a supreme court justice, etc. The killer is someone with a wealth of technical knowledge and capability to carry out elaborate murders, and for most of the book there's little suspense as to how he'll behave. The murder victims are all caricatured as leering idiots
A deputy FBI director is put in charge of the case and for much of the book seems to be one of only 2 competent people in the bureau, along with his young sidekick. The FBI director, for no particular reason, is made into a preening buffoon. CAPITAL CRIMES is filled with improbabilities. One character repeatedly ignores communications about the identity of the killer, and the killer himself publishes his intended targets on a website. A subplot involving a British raid on the web server goes nowhere. There's nothing the least bit original or interesting in this book. Skip it .
on November 26, 2003
The players who live hard and fast in today's vitriolic political environment are the driving force in Stuart Woods's newest thriller, CAPITAL CRIMES. He brings back Will Lee, the former senator from Georgia, who is now President of the United States. His wife, Katherine Rule Lee, wields power as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. She was "appointed to that post by her husband, after an act of Congress had allowed him to do so." Together, with the help of Robert Kinney, the FBI's deputy director for Criminal Investigations and a law enforcement crew from different agencies, they must stop a killer who is assassinating conservative politicians.
The timely story reflects so much of what is happening in America --- the divided factions of ideologues whose issues arise from their personal philosophies; the narrow-minded politicos who believe their doctrines are the only ones that count; the power hungry officials who lose sight of their original commitment to their constituents; the anger among the disenfranchised electorate; and the compelling themes of good vs. bad, them against us, whose rights are primary, and ultimately, does fiction reflect the truth about the world as we think we know it and how it is run. The lines between "Liberals" and "Conservatives" merge because anyone with an agenda and gun just needs to point and shoot.
CAPITAL CRIMES is a fast read, but that doesn't diminish its impact. When Senator Freddie Wallace is murdered at his weekend cabin, the possibility that secrets he had kept for years might be leaked sends a wave of fear to everyone from the Oval Office to almost all the corridors of power across the country: "What has a lot of people in Washington worried is that Senator Wallace was rumored to have kept extensive files on various people in government and that the information in those files might find its way into the media. According to rumor, only J. Edgar Hoover had more dirt on more important people."
The first leak was about Elizabeth Johnson, who had been the Senator's lover for over twenty years. When she found him she knew what to do. She "had gone through the house carefully, packing anything that might be linked to her into two large suitcases. She and Freddie had talked about this more than once, and his instructions had been explicit." He told her to take everything that belonged to her, get out of the house and call the sheriff. And that is exactly what she did.
When she got home she "opened a desk drawer in the den ... and took out a key. She went down the stairs to the basement and to a pile of boxes in a corner. She moved one, exposing a small filing cabinet, the kind that holds index cards ... she switched on a light, illuminating a row of precisely filed cards, all of them labeled with neatly printed names of some of the best-known, most powerful people in the country." At first she had wanted to look at them "but instead, she stared at the cards as if they were a poisonous reptile." She put the cards away and decided she "would wait awhile, until the furor over Freddie's death died down, then she would burn all those index cards in her fireplace."
But when Kinney found her, he told her he knew about the senator's cache of files and said, "The senator had a lot of enemies ... if we interview every one of them, it will take months, maybe years to develop suspects. He took a deep breath and told the lie. 'Now, I think it's very possible that, somewhere in those files is the name and the motive of the man who murdered the senator.'" Elizabeth understood immediately how important it was for Bob Kinney to take possession of the mean-spirited legacy she had kept hidden for so long.
Woods tells us a lot about Ted, the killer. We learn why he kills. We learn about his thought patterns. We get to know him through his heinous crimes. He was a master of disguises and great with his hands. He was able to make his own guns and rebuild his car so that the carapace hid the engine and other high-tech adjustments he made. We learn that he had been planning this killing spree for years and that he is a very patient man.
But someone knows his identity, where he can be found and how to catch him. Not surprisingly, that someone wants to speak to CIA Director Katherine Rule Lee. He wants a dialogue with her but only on his terms. She is reluctant to tell anyone that he's been in touch with her. Why has she not told even the President about her contact with this mystery man? Is she hiding something behind her post as First Lady, or does her silence have something to do with her assignment with the CIA?
Stuart Woods is an accomplished writer who has produced 29 books, all of them gems. He is known for his well-crafted plots and intriguing characters. He is an accessible writer with an exceptional ability to take a headline and reweave it into a suspenseful novel. That uncanny talent makes CAPITAL CRIMES another jewel in his crown.
--- Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum
on November 19, 2003
Just when we were getting a little tired of playboy detective Stone Barrington, and while we enjoy Woods' fairly new Holly Barker series, along comes the latest entry in the Will Lee series. Will is now U.S. President, but truthfully his role is little more than "keep me informed" in this new political thriller. The plot gets going fast as a right-wing senator, and then in short order, a rightist talk show host, are apparently assassinated. It takes a couple more killings before the FBI/CIA team chasing the killer gets some solid enough leads to go into action. The second half is the typical race to catch the bad guy while he plots his next victims, but the suspense and cleverness of the assassin kept us turning pages into the night. The story was somewhat reminiscent of Woods' last Barrington novel, "Dirty Work", which featured the resourceful female executioner "La Biche". With maybe tongue in cheek, the author gives a bit part to British secret agent "Carpenter" (from that book), whose brief appearance in "Crimes" serves to actually tie the two books together a little bit.
Woods' novels rarely fail to please and this compelling story line, crisp writing, and slightly untidy ending make for another good addition to his bibliography. Enjoy!
on November 17, 2003
I am a big fan of novels by Stuart Woods. This latest novel is the 4th in the Will Lee series.
Someone with a great knowledge of how to kill people in many different ways has gone out and started assinating right-wing conservatives. Deputy Director Robert Kinney must figure out who is commiting these crimes. Will Lee, the president, and his wife Kate Rule Lee, the CIA Director, are there to help Mr. Kinney in his quest to find the assassin. The relationship between Kate Rule Lee and her mentor gone bad, Ed Rawls, is revisited when Ed sends information to Kate concerning the murders.
A couple of things that I didn't like: I felt that some of the characters were sort of flat. We never get a sense of who Robert Kinney really is and what his interests are. Also, there is no real explanation as to why the assassin wants to kill right-wing conservatives other than the fact that he doesn't agree with their politics. It would have been nice for there to have been some kind of underlying reason for the killings other than the guy just felt like doing it. Lastly, even though this novel is presented as a "Will Lee" novel, the story really centers around Robert Kinney with Will and Kate being supporting characters to the story. It should be interesting to see what Mr. Woods does in the future with these characters.
As always, Woods creates a great plotline and a hard-to-put-down page turner despite some of the characteristics that the novel is lacking (hence the reason for 4 stars instead of 5). Mr. Woods will continue to be my favorite author, even if I don't agree with his political views.
I would recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a quick and easy read!
on October 20, 2003
The idea of a "vast right wing conspiracy" is used as background in Stuart Woods's latest book, titled "Capital Crimes." Labeled on the cover as well as on the jacket copy as being about his character Will Lee, it isn't. Will Lee is in the book, occasionally, as President of the Untied States as well as other characters readers have seen before in other books. Will Lee isn't the focus nor is he the one leading the investigation as is claimed on the misleading jacket copy. Instead, as President, he wants the job done and occasionally approves actions taken by Robert Kinney.
The novel revolves around Robert Kinney, the Deputy Director for Crimminal Investigations in the FBI. Not only is his boss the Director of the FBI, James Heller, portrayed as a political appointee and an idiot who impedes the investigation, he also has the problem of tracking down a killer in the glare of the media spotlight. The killer is a brilliant tactician who is now using his vast skills to kill prominent conservatives by various methods. He has targeted politicians, media pundits and others because he believes that they are obstructionist and preventing America from becoming a great nation once again. Not only is he doing a favor for the sitting President, as he sees it, he is saving America from enemies within. One by one, he is killing than and despite having his target list via his website, they can't find him or protect those on the list.
This book is better than normal Stuart Woods. Not only is the writing slightly more intense than normal as is the plotting, there is some actual character development in this novel. Robert Kinney is a character with interesting possibilities and I suspect will be spun off into a new series. It seems to have all the hallmark Woods signals that this could happen especially in the light of the misleading jacket copy and the fact that the Will Lee character as drawn has done just about everything he can logically do. For him to make another appearance as the actual focus of a novel would require fundamental character restructuring which is not something Stuart Woods has done in the past with characters such as Stone Barrington, Jesse Stone and others too numerous to mention.
As in his other books featuring those characters, action is the primary component and motivation behind all elements. This fast read is almost entirely about the hunt as the pov shifts at times through other characters but primarily between Robert Kinney and the suspect. Like many of his more recent works, no deep intellectual questions are raised and the book is quickly forgettable. For what it is, sheer escapist reading, it is better than most and perfect to escape reality for a couple of hours.
on October 19, 2003
Stuart Woods continues the Will Lee saga in "Capital Crimes." Will Lee, who first appeared in Mr. Woods' Edgar winning debut novel "Chiefs", is now POTUS. The First Lady is Director of the CIA.
A extremely intelligent, well-trained and highly motivated assassin is killing conservative, right wing members of government and the media. He uses poison, firearms and explosives with equal competence---all without leaving a trace---so well in fact it appears he must have been trained by a very secret government agency.
Will Lee has zero tolerance for inter-agency turf wars and makes certain the CIA, FBI, DEA, ATF, et al share info and cooperate in order to catch the serial killer.
Will Lee is the most interesting personality Mr. Woods has created. Unfortunately he stays in the background in "Capital Crimes."
The stars here are a pair of FBI Special Agents. Their relentless, clever and astute investigative work in the trackdown drives the plot.
Good subplot featuring a jailed disgraced former CIA agent who will provide invaluable information in exchange for a presidential pardon.
The two threads meld into a classic finale---the getaway vehicle is destroyed, but no sign of a body. Did this immaculately prepared murderer who has never left a shred of evidence manage to survive?
A fast, exhilarating read---but, not as intricate and complex as the earlier Will Lee novels.
on October 13, 2003
The first person executed is South Carolina Republican Senator Frederick Wallace, an extreme right wing politician. The crime scene is clean and the kill is professional. The next victim is right wing radio talk show host Van Vandervelt whose car explodes. The killer attains official serial status when conservative TV commentator Tim Brennan is poisoned. The republicans, borrowing a page from Senator Clinton, blame the murders on a vast left-wing conspiracy to destroy the United States. Of course politics must be included so they tie the killers to President William Henry Lee IV.
First Lady Katharine Rule Lee as the CIA director leads a thorough search for clues and any ties besides extreme right wing beliefs of the victims. The usual left wing suspects fail to pass the test as clever killers. Leads are almost non-existent though Her Majesty's Military Intelligence believes there is a link to a radical British group. Ed Rawls, in jail for treason, offers the identity of the murderer in exchange for a full pardon and a million dollars. Pondering deals with the devil and who will be next, Katharine and FBI agent Robert Kinney must find a way to stop these left wing terrorist assassinations.
Though quite exciting, readers will have to accept several premises such as the First Lady remaining as CIA director, etc. The story line is fast-paced, but requires loads of acceptance that events play out the way they do in the plot. Still Stuart Woods provides an exhilarating political suspense thriller that if one belies reality will still find pleasurable.
I'm back from our Christmas trip to visit the relatives, so it's time to get caught up on a book review. Yesterday I started (and finished) Capital Crimes by Stuart Woods. Woods brings back one of his earlier characters (Will Lee) in this political crime mystery. I must say I like the Stone Barrington novels better... A serial killer is starting to pick off a number of right-wing government officials and media celebrities. A web site is discovered that shows who is on the list to be killed, and the FBI has to figure it out quickly before he strikes again. Perhaps it's because I haven't read the prior Will Lee novels in awhile, but this book lacked any depth or substance. The story is OK, but the characters are just "there". Not much development if they were meant to stand on their own in this book. If there's no other recreational reading to be had, I'd say go for it, but if you have other titles you want to start first, this one can wait.
on June 15, 2004
A very disappointing and not-so-novel premise of bumbling, stupid, inept, hypocritical right-wing Republicans, sleezing their way through Capital Hill with the saavy, young, energetic, superior intellectual Democrats covering their asses. This book oozes of polital bias and a lame plot complete with the FBI director actually satisfied, well, let's say not disappointed, with the sniper shooting of one of the victims, a conservative SOB (all conservatives are in this book)who is a senator. As an avid reader, I just get tired of the same predictable stories and villains in current fiction. Do authors honestly think their readers are buying (no pun intended) this fodder? Woods needs to stick with the Barrington line and phase out the Will Lee novels if this is all he can come up with. Trust me, this is no "Chiefs", which is unfortunate.
on November 2, 2003
Someone with an impressive array of murderous skills is systematically assassinating right-wing political figures one after another. The FBI and the CIA, who suspect that the killer comes from somewhere in their ranks, join forces to try to track down the assassin. An imprisoned former CIA traitor, who claims to know the identity of the assassin, wants to trade that information for a pardon and freedom.
This is Woods' best Will Lee novel, even though President Will and his wife, CIA head Kate, are peripheral to the action. Woods produces some good character development in both Robert Kinney, a Deputy Director of the FBI, and in Ted, the assassin. The story is very fast-paced. There are plenty of high-tech gadgets, chase scenes, computer hacking, and SWAT team action to keep things interesting. You will find it hard to put this book down.