What would happen if the great straits of the world were left out of action? How would petrol and other goods move around? This is the question at the heart of this novel, the first in the Tom Dugan’s series that focuses on a number of international secret agents (and some amateurs that get caught in the fire) who by default end up working together investigating a terrorist threat affecting the oceans. I must admit I know very little (being generous) about tankers and the ins and outs of high seas transportation, but that did not detract from my understanding of the plot or my enjoyment of the novel.
We have Tom Dugan, a reluctant hero, an independent and fairly free agent, who is recruited because of his inside knowledge (he is a marine engineer) and because, through a friend, he becomes embroiled in the conspiracy. Although we don’t know him well (this being a series there should be time to get to know more about him), he has an interesting backstory, he is likeable and engaging, friend of his friends, honest and loyal.
His friend, Alex Kairouz, and especially his friend’s family, his daughter Cassie (a great character) and Mrs. Farnshaw are in a league of their own.
And one of the strongest points for me was not only the many stranded plot, detailed enough to result convincing (and make you hope somebody is really organising a team to look after this aspect of international security), but the assorted and totally credible secondary characters.
Even those who have a very small part (like the Turkish pilot), are unforgettable, and some, like Arnett, the female second mate, the whole of the Italian crew, and the Russian special forces team, deserve books of their own. Some of the baddies have their epic moments too, and you do get attached to the characters and by the end, care for them and with them.
When you read this novel, you can see it in your mind’s eye. This is a big adventure, if it were made into a movie, a huge blockbuster, a thriller/conspiracy theory novel following a number of complex plots, international terrorism using religion, nationalist ideology, and greed as a way of manipulating a number of players. Chechens, Iranians, Venezuelans, Americans, Russians, Panamanians…
This is an ambitious novel that I recommend to people who like their adventures on a grand scale and who love complex and detailed stories.