As someone unfamiliar with the Jean-Jacques (JJ) Stoner series, Two Wrongs by Frank Westworth seemed to start a little too fast.
Granted, it is a short story so I expected the plot to be condensed, but the story felt a bit unfinished at the end.
Two Wrongs starts in the past with a married woman and a Navy man about to embark on a sizzling affair. The first few pages are devoted to their sexual tension and the actual sex scenes. It’s definitely steamy, but hard to figure out who the characters are, beyond their names (Stretch and Rose), and what role they play.
The next section brings us back to the present. Stretch, is back home on leave and he learns some terrible news: Rose was in a horrible car accident and is now basically a living vegetable. Supposedly Rose’s husband found out about her affair, and she felt she had no choice but to commit suicide by driving her car into a truck.
Stretch visits Rose in the hospital as soon as he hears the bad news, and finds out she’s pregnant. Based on how far along she is, Stretch figures the baby is his.
In the next scene a British man approaches Stretch at a jazz and blues festival. He says he’s working with one of Stretch’s friends, and Stretch ends up telling the man about Rose.
This man turns out to be Stoner, though he never really introduces himself. Since Two Wrongs is the second book in the series, it makes sense that Stoner would appear and become a major character, but only if you’re familiar with the series.
Stoner asks Stretch for a favor, offering to return the same in exchange. They agree to be each other’s alibi sometime in the next couple days, though only Stoner seems to know why each of them would need an alibi.
The next night, Stretch keeps his word and provides Stoner with an alibi when the FBI come looking for him. Only Stretch isn’t lying, and he isn’t sure why Stoner needed him in the first place.
Instead of explaining, Stoner suggests Stretch take him up on his alibi offer and take care of his business with Rose the next day.
Stretch has a touching, private moment with Rose before putting her and her unborn child out of their misery.
In the meantime, Stoner visits the FBI and learns that someone is trying to frame him for murder. Stoner heads out to figure out who is framing him, and the story ends with Stoner riding away on his motorcycle after punching a man, Marty, at a shooting range who had in hand in framing him.
It’s implied that Stoner and Marty know each other at least semi-well, and there are a lot of hints about Stoner’s past that are important to the current story.
Overall, Two Wrongs is intriguing, and what Stretch and Stoner go through are compelling. But again, it feels unfinished, and the story seems more like the opening of a much larger story. What happens to Stretch now? Is he still part of the story or is it all about Stoner now? What really happened to Rose? Where is Stoner going?
Based on this short story, the Stoner series seems to be action packed, and probably have twists, so could be worth reading to learn more about what happens to Stoner next.