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(Will Lee #1)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  5,871 ratings  ·  445 reviews

The compelling thriller that launched the career of best-selling novelist Stuart Woods in an anniversary hardcover edition.

In the bitter winter of 1920, the first body is found in Delano, Georgia; the naked corpse of an unidentified teenager. There is no direct evidence of murder, but the body bears marks of what seems to be a ritual beating. The investigation falls to Wil
Kindle Edition, 25th Anniversary Edition, 435 pages
Published January 23rd 2012 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published June 1981)
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Nancy This was a disturbing version of racism in the south. But it continues to be an issue even after Barack Obama. WHY? Excellent read 25 years after the…moreThis was a disturbing version of racism in the south. But it continues to be an issue even after Barack Obama. WHY? Excellent read 25 years after the initial release. (less)
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4.25  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,871 ratings  ·  445 reviews

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May 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Hmmmm! This to me was comparable to reading three different books. The first Police Chief's I would have given a 4 star for sure if it was the whole onus. The Second Chief's I would barely give a 3 star, maybe 2.5 stars. And the last Chief, an even 3 stars.

Just not my style of intrusion to some of the most off putting details of the characters' lives. And also just all around mean, for the most part. There were few characters that I could connect to embedding beyond the first part of the book.

Rex Fuller
Apr 24, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book travels the generations between 1920 and 1963 in a small Georgia town, Prohibition to Camelot. Showing the impact of the outside world while maintaining authenticity in the story over that length of a span makes for a huge challenge. The author succeeded. Finishing the book is saying goodbye to a close friend you may not see again.
An epic that spans 50+ years that is written beautifully. I had a hard time putting this down because of the very realistic characters and the anticipated capture of a serial killer. The narration was spot on and reminded me a bit of my favorite, George Guidall. I won't reiterate the plot of the story, suffice to say I highly recommend this book to anyone that likes epics with a mystery background mixed with a bit of history. Adding this one to my favorites.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the TV version first & really liked it, so when I came across the book second hand, I snatched it up. I'm glad I did. As I recall, the TV version was faithful to the novel, but there was so much more to the story. True horror without resulting to the supernatural.
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For some of my "light" reading over the years I've enjoyed several murder/mystery series. I've gone through all the Rita Mae Brown "Mrs. Murphy" mysteries set in Crozet, VA (a real town where my mom once actually lived that's outside of Charlottesville), all the Rita Mae Brown "Sister Jane" mysteries with their fox-hunting themes, all the Susan Alberts "China Bayles" mysteries with their herbal themes set in the fictional town of Pecan Springs, TX, all the Michael Connelly "Harry Bosch" and "Mic ...more
Randy Wiggins
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
CHIEFS is probably one of the best mystery novels of all time. Set in Georgia and covering three seperate periods of time and the careers of thre very different Cheifs of the Delano police Department who all try to solve a string of issing person casing involving young boys.
The final Chief stumbles upon the answers and the grisly killer in a shocking and twisted tale of Southern Gothic proportions.
This was the first novel of Stewart Woods' long standing career and still remains his best by far
Midwest Geek
Dec 31, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fiction lovers who do not demand non-stop action.
Shelves: mystery, audiobook
Five years ago when I listened to it, I rated it 4-stars, in part because the narrator, Mark Hammer, did such an outstanding job. No question that the author's prose is excellent, and I recall the book rather well. The story itself was good, but I felt it was also longer (17 hrs and 27 mins) than it needed to be. It's probably better to think of it as 3 shorter, interdependent novellas about the lives and tribulations of the people of Delano in the context of an evolving southern culture, as see ...more
Chiefs by Stuart Woods covers the time from 1919 when the town Delano, Georgia appoints their first police chief to 1969 when they appoint the first negro police chief. Two young men are found dead and then over the years many others go missing and the book follows indirectly the investigations by the three very different police chiefs. It focuses mainly on the changes in Southern culture and politics, and the problems related to racial integration. An interesting and captivating story which dra ...more
Jul 09, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
Chiefs was a very interesting read for me. It was recommended to me by CP, the assistant manager of the Waldenbooks I used to work at, and a voracious reader of mystery fiction (and romance novels, but you won’t catch me reading one of those any time soon). When I left, she put four mystery novels in my hands; this is the second one I’ve gotten to (the first was Black Echo. This is a much better novel, but not necessarily as good a mystery, depending on what it is you’re looking for.

Chiefs is th
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mandatory Woods' fans
Recommended to Will by: Wisest reviewer in the world
Shelves: mandatory-read
Stuart Woods first and favorite book. Following the creation of Delano in 1920, William Henry is the first police chief which pisses off Foxy Funderburke to no limit and starts a lifelong blood feud with authority and a psycho killer. William Henry is killed in a cluster fuck shooting and Willie Cole escapes while his father is caught and fried. Sonny Butts takes over and cannot escape his deep hidden avorice toward violence. When he suspects Foxy of kidnap/torture and confronts him at his home, ...more
Stacy Bearse
Sep 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This debut novel by the prolific author Stuart Woods has been on my reading list since the late 1980’s. I don’t know why I procrastinated, because this is a stunning work. Woods traces the history of racism in the fictional Georgia town of Delano by focusing on the tenures of three defining police chiefs. Given the re-emerging racial tension of the past several years, CHIEFS is as relevant today as it was when it was written in 1981. My only disappointment rests with the literary direction that ...more
Robbie Bashore
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little “Criminal Minds”-ish. Well-drawn characters. Deals with the sadly timeless topic of racism, although it leaves room for hope. Could be a good book for discussion.
Oct 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime, nick-s-gifts

This is a crime story that developes through 30 years and three different generations, but it is not a typical murder mystery. It is more the story of a town and about America growing into a modern country. Exciting and highly recommended
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For years I've resisted Stuart Woods. I've always considered him more of a "man's" author and just didn't think I'd enjoy his books. I started "Chiefs" on Wednesday and stayed up verrryyy late on Thursday finishing it. Now I'm hooked!
Set in the small town of Delano, Georgia, Stuart Woods introduces us to a tale about racial inequality and injustice and the power struggles that entails. He acquaints us with the power of the Chief of Police’s shiny new badge, and how it calls some to honor and serve, while others will become cruel and brutal with the need for domination. The racial divide in the 1920s, when this novel begins, allowed these injustices to flourish. The novel ends in the early 1960s, a time of great social upheav ...more
Don Gorman
If you picked up this book looking for a Stone Barrington type deal you came to the wrong rodeo! As a mildly educated observer I would say that this 1981 Edgar award winner is part of the inspiration for Grisham's A Time to Kill. Three connected stories about a little town in Georgia called Delano. The politics, families, secrets and more are all interesting intertwined here, based around the position of police chief. I guess this was a limited hardback release back in '81 and was issued in pape ...more
Diane Rogers
Jun 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I recently reread this book. I definitely think this is Woods’ best work! It depicts a small fictitious town, Delano, in Georgia from 1919 to 1963. Starting with the appointment of its first police chief, Will Henry Lee, and follows his family and the citizens of this small town.
In this recent reading I found myself highly disturbed by the racism depicted in this book but growing up in the south I realize that it is probably a true depiction of the times.
This book is a far cry from the easy, qu
Sep 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book. It's an intriguing story set in a small Georgia town during a forty year period (1920's - 60's.) I had seen the movie which was fantastic, but I was still caught up in the suspenseful conclusion.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Outstanding. Surprisingly layered and thoroughly suspenseful. Great picture of the entangled law and politics of the Civil rights era with a serial killer river running through. Really excellent.
Apr 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chiefs is a solid crime novel set in Georgia during the 1920's through the early 1960's. It really was a set of three novellas centered around three different chiefs of police in the same small town. Their stories were connected by their individual investigations into a local serial killer. The killer is no mystery and is known from the beginning. What is interesting is how the racism of the characters and the time period plays out in the story and it's effect on the investigation. Clear, concis ...more
Debra Barstad
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book. I will have to check out more of this authors book. This book takes place in the 20's to the 60's in a small southern town. It contains reference to the KKK and the racial disparities of the south and the times of such treatment to the African American citizens. I would recommend this book.
Joy Dias
Aug 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading this book from the very beginning. My first book with this author, and this was his first book over 25 + years ago. Where have I been? Just heard of him recently. Will definitely try another one of his books.
Kathy LeJeune
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on audio and thoroughly enjoyed. I have read other books about Will Lee and now I know his history.
One of my favorites!
Sasha Kidder
Dec 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow....excellent story line, excellent character background & development, excellent writing. Really impressed with this book. Five stars, period.
Keith Browning
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A very good read. Well drawn characters and an engaging plot. I recommend this book.
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The one calling card of civilization is murder. For as long as human beings have lived in communal groups, villages, towns, cities, urban areas, they have killed each other for varying reasons, and the nature of those crimes tells us much about the culture and lives of those involved.

For the past 25 years, Stuart Woods has made a very good living pumping out entertaining murder mysteries, but his career began with "Chiefs," a novel revolving around a series of unsolved murders spanning forty yea
Charles McCormack
Really good. Grabbed me from the beginning. An interesting story that spans decades of police chiefs before bringing the villain to a just end. Great character development, glimpses into wise counsel, and periodic moments of action which made the whole thing an entertaining read.
This is the book that started it all for Stuart Woods. This is his first published novel (1981) and a winner of the Edgar prize in 1982. And it is a book whose characters and their descendants, as well as the town where this story takes place, are referenced in virtually every book written by Woods since.

I became aware of Stuart Woods as a mystery/thriller author about a year ago when several of his e-books in the Stone Barrington series were offered on sale as a promotion for his latest book.
May 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, audiobook
Desperate to find a "new" author, I chose this book because it was not new and the reviewers promised murder, politics and corruption. It did not disappoint me.

I began this book in the audiobook format while out walking. Hearing the pace and accent of narrator Mark Hammer made this story real. The print pages never succeeded in capturing my interest in the same way.

Two-thirds of the tale were set within the current events window of my childhood (and probably yours too if you were in high school
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May 2018 Ditto my 2013 comments. The racism was brutal and vividly portrayed, as was the horrendous blight that was to envelope the community after the end of the story. THIS WAS STUART WOODS AS HIS FINEST NOVEL!!! Chiefs, his debut in 1981, won the Edgar Award. I believe I have read all or most of his novels. I appreciate his style of writing. But Chiefs has a gravitas lacking in his/her stories. I will keep reading his stories as long as he pumps them out!!!!

10-2013 Book on tape. At the end of
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Stuart Woods is the author the New York Times-bestselling Stone Barrington series and Holly Barker series. He is an avid private pilot, flying his own jet on book tours. You may see his tour schedule and learn more about the author on his website.

Other books in the series

Will Lee (7 books)
  • Run Before the Wind (Will Lee, #2)
  • Deep Lie (Will Lee, #3)
  • Grass Roots (Will Lee, #4)
  • The Run (Will Lee, #5)
  • Capital Crimes (Will Lee, #6)
  • Mounting Fears (Will Lee, #7)