SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS by Stuart Woods, G. P. Putnam’s Sons - New York, © 2007 by Stuart Woods, ISBN-978-0-397-15444-7, 293 pp, $25 (US),  $29 (CAN). Penguin Audio Book, , © 2007, ISBN-978-0-14-414246-1, Seven CDs – eight hours read by Tony Roberts, $29.95 (US) $37.50 (CAN)

Reviewed by Del Meyer, MD

Goin’ to Black Mountain

Take my razor and my gun

Gonna cut him if he stands still

Shoot him if he runs.

            Black Mountain Blues by J. C. Johnson


Shoot Him If He Runs is Stuart Woods’ Book 14 in the Stone Barrington series, fifth in the Holly Barker series, second in the William Henry Lee series and second in the Teddy (Theodore) Fay series.

Stone Barrington, an attorney and former detective with the New York Police Department (NYPD), is invited to the White House for dinner. He meets President William Henry Lee in the oval office and over cocktails, the president discusses Teddy Fay. Teddy had formerly worked in the CIA and since his leaving with narry a trace or photograph in his file, began killing right wing Republicans. He allegedly died in a small airplane crash. When a number of Middle Easterners unfriendly to the United States were being killed, it was assumed that Teddy Fay must still be alive. He was then thought to have died in a building explosion and an unidentified body was his. The previous week when a lady who had reported her homeless father as being missing brought in her own DNA sample. It was then determined that the body that was found was her own father. Now it appeared that Teddy Fay had made another escape.

President Lee is now running for re-election and can’t afford to have Teddy show up again, which would cast aspersions on the CIA. This is critical since his wife Katherine Rules Lee was the unpopular CIA Director. The president and Mrs. Lee decided that Teddy has to be found. He was thought to be residing on St. Marks Island in the Caribbean.

The president wanted Stone, along with CIA agent, Holly Barker, to make the trip and investigate. The president chose Stone because of his popularity and success in crime investigation and because he had made several large contributions to President Lee’s campaign. As he recited all of Stone’s successes, Stone was stunned by all the details the president knew and was told that this meeting “never occurred.”

Teddy had worked with Holly Barker at the CIA. She appeared in the Oval Office in such effective disguise, including with red hair, that Barrington hardly recognized her. Then Dino Bicchetti, who formerly worked with Stone in the NYPD walked in with his friend, Genevieve James. After a round of introductions, the President and Mrs. Lee excused themselves to join the hundreds that were gathering for the CIA dinner. Lance, the acting Chief at the CIA walked in and said he would brief Stone and Holly on the details of their investigation after the dinner and in the morning before they all left for St. Marks. Dino’s friend Genevieve had already been briefed superficially and sworn to secrecy in order to make it appear that the foursome was on vacation on a tropical isle.

The briefing the next morning included the fact that Irene Foster, a former CIA agent was residing in retirement on St. Marks. There was a feeling that she might know about Teddy Fay since they worked together and may have given Teddy the information he needed to continue as a master spy and murderer after leaving the service. The CIA had thoroughly investigated the possibility of a security leak. But then it was Irene Foster that conducted the investigation and reported to the Director that no leak was found.

After their arrival, one of the party is arrested, interrogated, tortured, and his life endangered. Irene Foster is notified of the situation and she makes a phone call. Shortly thereafter, the Island’s Chief of Police’s head explodes while talking with the CIA undercover agent and the headless person falls next to him. When another corrupt official’s chest explodes, the delegation concludes that these are the marks of their master sniper and spy; Teddy must be alive. But as another corrupt official is hit as he’s leaving his Mercedes, the CIA and the president have concluded that Teddy is too dangerous to be allowed to live. The orders are very clear: he must be killed whether by stabbing “him if he stands still, or shoot him if he runs.”

This is a very illuminating novel into the workings of the CIA, police detective work, the primitive nature of detective work in the tropical isles, the corruption of dictatorships even if posing as the Prime Minister, presidential politics, Congressional oversight and how outcomes and resolutions have so many political implications that the resolution may never include justice. But as with most spy novels and legal thrillers, just as in the westerns, justice may better be served in the field without the trial by attorneys. In California, you can be a famous ballplayer and kill two people and be declared innocent.

Notwithstanding, the outcome and the journey to that end is another Stuart Woods’ tour de force which also allows another Stone Barrington and Holly Barker thriller. Stuart Woods has just made an arrangement with his publisher to write three novels a year instead of two. So we shall see the next one soon.

The Penguin Audio is read by Tony Roberts, a Tony nominee and gifted Broadway Stage actor. He does a masterful job of impersonating not only the male characters, but also the female spies. Truly a worthwhile listen in the car driving between hospitals or to San Francisco. Or even in your own study or living room with the opened book to give the dialogue a reality emphasis, if you have an extra eight hours.