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REVIEW 'Two-Dollar Bill' a thriller worth the money



Published: Sat, April 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A dead prostitute and a sex video scandal add to the novel's suspense.

By CAROL DEEGAN

ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

"Two-Dollar Bill." By Stuart Woods. Putnam. 298 Pages. $25.95.

Stone Barrington hated him on sight: Billy Bob Barnstormer, tall and Texan, who tips with rare $2 bills.

Barnstormer wants Barrington, a former cop turned attorney, to represent him because "everybody ought to have a lawyer." And the $50,000 Barnstormer offers as a retainer is hard to refuse.

So begins Stuart Woods' latest Stone Barrington novel, "Two-Dollar Bill," a smooth and solid thriller.

Barrington and Barnstormer are leaving Elaine's restaurant on Manhattan's Upper East Side when shots are fired. Against his better judgment, Barrington takes Barnstormer home with him, and that's when the trouble begins.

In quick order, a prostitute is found dead in Barrington's town house, he pops up in a sex video with a government official (secretly taped in his bedroom) and the CIA's Lance Cabot appears out of nowhere, explaining that "we like to look in on our contract consultants from time to time, make sure they're not moving in bad company."

Deadly games

Soon, Barrington, police Lt. Dino Bacchetti (Stone's former NYPD partner) and Cabot are involved in a deadly game of kill or be killed as Barnstormer's real identity is revealed (he's dealing in illegal arms). No one is safe, not Barrington, his former lover, Arrington Carter Calder, or her young son.

Woods does an excellent job of keeping the action moving, adding just the right amount of sarcasm and humor. ("He looks like one of the Sons of the Pioneers," says Bacchetti when he sees Barnstormer for the first time.) And when Bacchetti and Cabot aren't battling Barnstormer and his henchmen, they're arguing about who has jurisdiction over the case.

Readers also will enjoy the "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" aspect of the friendship between Barrington and Bacchetti, who find a clever way to escape from Barnstormer after being handcuffed together, back to back. (It involves Barrington hanging by his feet.)

"Two-Dollar Bill" is a winner, from beginning to end.




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