Cold Paradise - Stuart Woods Joint review with Woods' L.A. Dead

Stone Barrington is a cop-turned-lawyer and private investigator who needs to be much more selective in his choice of bedmates. I read these two books out of sequence. They can be read independently, but to get the full flavor of the hole Stone has dug for himself, one should really read Dead in the Water, which I have not read, then L.A. Dead, followed by Cold Paradise.

In the beginning of L.A. Dead, Stone is off to Italy about to marry the beautiful Dolce, daughter of a Mafia don, who is also father-in-law to Dino, Stone's ex-partner, now a homicide lieutenant in New York City -- and also one of my favorite characters; he has so much more common sense than Stone. Anyway, after the Italian civil ceremony, but before the finalizing (or so Stone thinks) religious ceremony, the wedding party is notified that Vance Calder has been shot. Vance is the husband of Stone's former love-of-his-life, Arrington Calder, who is the prime suspect. So, with his prospective father-in-law's blessing (he's an amazingly helpful and understanding guy) off trots Stone to California to defend his former lover. To make a long — but fun — story short, Stone manages to piss off just about everyone, while sleeping with assorted movie stars and rekindling his affair with Arrington, much to the consternation and anger of Dolce, who annoyingly keeps checking into expensive hotels and announcing that she is Mrs. Stone Barrington, which, according to Italian law, she is. Anyway, Dolce keeps popping up at inconvenient times, popping away at his numerous new girlfriends with assorted guns. Stone gets Arrington off the hook, of course.

Cut to Palm Beach, where Stone has been hired in Cold Paradise by the enormously wealthy Thad Shames to find a woman he just met at a party, whose name he does not know, but whom he wishes to marry. Unlikely as it may seem, the woman turns out to be Allison Manning, a woman supposed to be dead (from Dead in the Water), and also with whom Stone has had an affair (it's difficult to imagine a woman he has not bedded). To make things complicated, Allison wants to get out of her earlier marriage to Paul Manning, a man who supposedly had been hanged for having murdered three people in Dead in the Water. Stone also helps her perpetrate a minor insurance fraud -- read sophisticated legal maneuver. And then, guess who should show up but Dolce, escaped from a mental institution where Stone had conveniently left her (again with the help of her Mafia father). In the meantime, Stone lives a life of luxury on Thad's incredible yacht while bedding Thad's secretary. And then Arrington shows up, too, now married to someone else again.

Well, I guess it's all in fun. Dino, in particular, is a wonderful character, but the coincidences stretch one's credulity beyond the breaking point.