Thursday, July 05, 2012

A Promising First Novel - Review of "Deadly Straits" by R.E. McDermott

R.E. McDermott has dug deeply into his more than thirty years experience in the maritime industry to craft a very satisfying first novel. The plot is as complex and as meandering as the Gulf Stream. It involves multi-layered terrorist plots to disrupt the world's shipping by choking off the Panama Canal, the Strait of Malacca and the Bosporus. Intrigue rules as manifold nations negotiate and plot and double cross - the U.S., the UK, Panama, Venezuela, Iran, Turkey, China, Russia and Liberia each contribute to the advancement of this thrilling adventure on the high seas.

The author has created a fascinating cast of characters - from CIA operatives, career mariners, politicians, mercenaries and magnates. My only reason for not giving a full 5 stars in my review is that I would have wished for a bit more nuance in the villains that McDermott describes. Gardner is the most egregious example of such a "black hat." He is an overly-ambitious and unscrupulous political appointee at the CIA who seeks to thwart the work of the real operatives, Ward and Dugan. His every move and speech is predictable. He is always about to run off to appear at a press conference with Senator So and So or to attend a Prayer Breakfast with Congressman Such and Such. He is a one-dimensional cartoonish character who is simply not believable. But I quibble.

With that one exception, I enjoyed the book immensely. There are clever plot twists, complex double-backs, and deep knowledge of ship building, ship operations and the shipping lanes. The political intrigues are byzantine and plausible.

I look forward to the author's next offering.


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