Rocklin, CA, United States | Member Since 2004
'Chiefs' completely blew me away -- who knew? I've read several of Stuart Woods other books, the Stone Barrington and Ed Eagle series in particular, and they were fine, nothing to really write home about. So I wasn't too excited when I saw this one on Audible. But? It was on sale, and it was long -- a prime requirement for me -- so what the heck? Why not?
Boy, was I wrong. "Chiefs" grabs you from the very first minutes and doesn't let go -- I literally cancelled two appointments this afternoon -- no way was I going to stop listening until I finished it. This was Katherine Stockett's "The Help" meets Robert Penn Warren's classic "All the King's Men", although arguably better than either. As a novel of southern culture, spanning three generations, as viewed through three very different men who served as chief of police in a small southern town, it's hard to imagine anything better than this one.
Few books draw you so completely into the character's lives as does "Chiefs". This is consummate storytelling. As each of the three segments finished, I was sad to see it end, figuring the next segment surely wouldn't be as good as the one I'd just finished. But I was never disappointed. Each was compelling in its own way.
It's really too bad it's being advertised as a "serial killer" book. Yes, that's an element, but that's sort of like saying that chocolate cake is about the sugar. Yes, that's an element, but that misses the point. This is a novel, not really detective fiction, as such. It's a story of courage and cowardice, of home and running away, of race, black and white, good men and evil scattered throughout. True, it's the 'killer' angle that ties the three administrations together, but that's really not the focus of the story.
I couldn't help comparing the whole situation to that of John Grisham. This was Stuart Woods first book -- written long before he published any of the more traditional detective fiction books he's more famous for. Yet "Chiefs" is so far above and beyond anything that Woods has written since, it's sometimes hard to believe it's the same author.
Same with Grisham. The first book he wrote -- "A Time To Kill" -- wasn't published until he'd already written and sold several other more traditional legal thrillers. Similarly, "A Time to Kill" is by far Grisham's finest work, although I'd admit "A Painted House" comes close in terms of literary merit. And also similarly, 'A Time to Kill" isn't really about rape and punishment, it's about the life and times of the people involved, the society in which these things happened. So it is with "Chiefs".
I know I will listen to this book again and again. If you haven't read or listened to it yet, you've got a real treat ahead of you. Don't miss this one. It's a classic.
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