You’d think an author with over 40 best-selling books to his credit would have learned to pay attention to continuity; or have an assistant to handle “first reader duties”; or have an editorial staff with someone who looks for continuity errors.
Sadly, this is not the case with Stuart Woods’ latest book, “Hothouse Orchid.” The newest mystery in the Holly Barker series is full of gaffes, gaps and goofs. It’s a shame, too, because the story is pretty solid, taking Holly on a long overdue vacation from her current job at the CIA to her house in fictitious Orchid Beach, Florida, where she spent time as the hamlet’s chief of police.
All is not well under the sun in Orchid Beach. Women are being knocked out and raped, claiming later that they were stopped by someone pretending to be a police officer.
The new police chief is retired Army Colonel James Bruno, a man Holly knows well, having fought off his advances when she was in the service.
To make matters worse, Holly testified against Col. Bruno when he brutally raped one of her fellow officers.
Holly’s fellow officer, Lauren Cade, is now working for Florida State Patrol, which really complicates matters, because part of Cade’s job is to investigate the recent assaults in Orchid Beach.
Col. Bruno is now in charge of investigating rapes – rapes that are about to take a deadly turn.
Added to the dicey plot line, is an interesting secondary story about Teddy Fey, former deputy chief of technical services for the CIA. After retiring, “Fey had gone off the reservation, had started killing right-wing political figures, Middle Eastern diplomats ... and no combination of ... resources had been able to stop him.”
Not that Holly hadn’t tried. She once got close enough to shoot Fey in the leg, creating suspicion among the CIA upper crust that she supported his rogue activities.
Fey, who changes his identity as easily as he changes his clothes, has decided to spend some time in Vero Beach, completely unaware that Holly is visiting in nearby Orchid Beach.
The book’s premise and the plots work well, save the sloppy writing and editorial oversights.
Once they arrive in Orchid Beach, Holly and her beloved Doberman, Daisy, have a quick visit with Hamilton Barker, Holly’s father. Then they head to Holly’s house.
“Holly fixed dinner for herself and Daisy ...” (page 9)
The problem with this sentence is that Holly had no groceries.
Her father had stopped by to check on the house “a few weeks” ago, but was run off by a CIA agent, who was there to beef up Holly’s security system.
“She [Holly] was hungry, so she ... went downstairs for a sandwich.” (page 27)
Woods makes no mention of a trip to the market for food until Page 30, and then it’s only the night’s dinner.
“...in spite of her shopping trip for dinner, she had little else to eat in the house.” (page 43)
Editorial gaffes continue as Woods describes Holly’s reaction to purchasing a new airplane. He writes: “Holly was more excited than she had been since she had started training with the Agency’s Farm ...”
And repeats himself almost immediately.
“She hadn’t been this excited since she began her training with the Agency.” (both on page 95)
If a reader can catch these errors during a first reading, why can’t an editorial staff – who spends months with each manuscript – find the pesky little mistakes that ruin it for the rest of us?
Here at the News-Telegram, we rarely have more than a few minutes to proofread breaking stories, and rarely have more than a half hour to proof feature stories.
Every journalist I know would welcome the luxury of having a first reader or a staff of proofreaders who could find the goofs in their stories. It’s the stuff that reporters, columnists and critics’ dreams are made of.
The mistakes are especially aggravating when you read the Author’s Note at the back of the book.
He begins by admonishing his readers to make sure their e-mail addresses are correct. Then, he cautions against sending attachments – “They can take 20 minutes to download and they often contain viruses.”
And don’t send Woods an idea for a book. He uses “only what I invent myself,” thank you very much.
Then, comes the final instruction:
“If you find typographical or editorial errors in my book and feel the irresistible urge to tell someone, please write to Rachel Kahan at Penguin’s address. Do not e-mail your discoveries to me, as I have will have already learned about them from others.”
It seems like a pretty arrogant point of view, when you consider the mess found in “Hothouse Orchid.”
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