Dead Eyes

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As he did for L.A. TIMES, Stuart Woods uses the film industry for the background to his latest novel, DEAD EYES. The similarities, however, all but end there. DEAD EYES has none of the comedy of L.A. TIMES, and rather than cheering for a wonderfully ruthless protagonist, readers will find themselves fearing for the life of actress Chris Callaway and those trying to protect her from a mysterious stalker.

Callaway has been blinded-probably temporarily, her doctor tells her-in a fall at the house she is building in Malibu. Shortly prior to the accident, she began receiving notes and flowers at her supposedly secret Beverly Hills address. Communications from “Admirer,” as he identifies himself, intensify after her accident, and she calls in the police. Detective Jon Larsen, who by himself is the entire stalker team of the Beverly Hills Police Department, begins investigation and soon, predictably, falls in love with her. Admirer appears to know everything that Callaway does, and following each encounter with Larsen, his messages grow more menacing.

Larsen finds some clues to Admirer’s identity and decides to turn the tables on him, drawing him into traps and sending threatening notes to him. Admirer evades several of the traps, and each side begins using more dangerous weapons, culminating in a thrilling encounter that could lead either to an arrest or to Callaway’s murder.

DEAD EYES is a page-turner of a mystery, with new developments coming quickly in virtually each short chapter. Action and intensity cannot be faulted; Woods does, however, reach toward implausibility in some of the breaks in the case. Occasionally, plot twists come with no preparation, leaving the reader surprised and thrilled but perhaps disappointed. Woods walks the difficult line of the thriller writer, trying to keep the reader guessing, and sometimes errs on the side of giving too little information in his quest to provide surprise.