enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Stuart Woods, A Distant Thunder

I read this book about 3-Jan-2023. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 2022. This note was last modified Wednesday, 04-Jan-2023 23:37:29 PST.

This is book 63 of the "Stone Barrington" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


I'm thinking this may be his last book (he died in July of 2022), though I haven't seen any official statement of it. I also am not finding any indication of how he died, which might let me guess how close to the end he might have continued writing. Well, I'm sure his publisher will make all clear soon enough; they wouldn't hold up novels now in the pipeline I wouldn't think. (He had gone to a 4-books-per-year schedule in 2014, which is, um, rather high, if he was doing the work himself (which it seems to me likely he was)).

So, I'm stumbling over things that look like goofs. I'll try to note those as they go by, and then if they turn out to somehow make sense, we can have a good laugh at me later.

The opening action, having a body turn up on the Isleboro ferry carrying CIA credentials, during a huge storm, is not unusual for these books. Having the person whose corpse they thought they had found call his wife and email Lance Cabot with convincing evidence he's the real person is a nice progression. This is after the corpse has been cremated and the ashes scattered, which rather limits their options for further forensic work. But Lance says the Maine police sent him the finger prints, and Lance appears to accept the corpse as Jack Collins. Lance isn't what you'd call a reliable narrator (or human being), though, and he's being especially weird in this book.

In chapter 23 he tells Collins that Vanessa changed the Cayman Islands bank account number and password, at Stone's suggestion, after Collins withdrew $450,000 from it while they thought him dead. But this is the first we have heard of it.

In chapter 24 he tells Collins there is one gap in the security of his house on Isleboro—that "[t]he back porch can be seen readily from the harbor, so a good shot on a boat could nail you, even in the living room." But the windows in that house are very bullet proof, as demonstrated in previous books.

In chapter 56, the Boston Whaler that Stone and Dino are shooting from (on the yacht Breeze) is explained as stopping the incoming rifle fire because of "a layer of Kevlar in the hull". That's nowhere near enough, not for rifle fire; soft body armor is many layers of Kevlar, but needs added hard plates to be proof against rifle fire.

So, by the end, we have no idea who Vanessa is or who she represents, but apparently she's somewhat connected to the CIA (to Lance Cabot, CIA director). Or where she came for, or why.

Nothing particulary explained away the glitches noted.

Woods mostly says at the end of his books when he finished writing them. This one says April 8, 2022. This came out in late fall, maybe November which would be his usual recent schedule. That's vastly fast turnaround by traditional SF publishing standards, but they may schedule books before having a complete manuscript in hand if you're Stuart Wood.

Since he died July 22, 2022, it seems somewhat unlikely that he completed another book after this, even an early draft; but his death could have been sudden and accidental, he could have been working full-steam ahead until the last second. As of 5-Jan-2022 Wikipedia has nothing on cause of death, nor does his website.

Sadly, I would rate this as one of the less good books in the series. The story doesn't hang together very well, and there are the glitches.


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David Dyer-Bennet