Santa Fe Rules by Stuart Lee

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Santa Fe Rules

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Wolf Willett’s problems begin when he discovers, after a night of drinking, that he has forgotten an entire day. They become worse when he reads, while out of town, about the deaths of three people in his home, one of whom police believe to be Willett himself. Willett flies back to his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to straighten out the confusion.

Willett begins investigating on his own, choosing to remain officially dead for several days while he finishes editing a film on which he has been working. When he reveals himself to the police and identifies two of the bodies as those of his business partner and his wife, he becomes a suspect in the triple murder, a particularly promising one because his partner’s will has just been changed to leave him as sole beneficiary. To help clear himself of the charges against him, Willett enlists the aid of Ed Eagle, a lawyer who plays by “Santa Fe Rules,” which involve some deception and incomplete cooperation with the police.

Mistaken identities figure prominently in this mystery, beginning with the confusion concerning the third body found in Willett’s guest bedroom. Events unfold quickly as Willett and Eagle, along with Jane Deering, Willett’s new love interest, attempt to unravel the murder mystery. Woods presents a fascinating cast of characters from the film community and the underworld as well as rapid action in this engaging, hard-to-put-down tale. The resolution is somewhat difficult to believe, but that is almost to be expected in a book such as this, which relies on misdirection to move the plot along. Woods pulls a few too many strings in tying together the loose ends of his plot but tells a good story nevertheless.