In Whitehill’s thriller, an unearthed treasure comes with the promise of wealth—along with covert operatives who will do whatever necessary to retrieve their loot.
While diving for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, former Navy sniper Ben Blackshaw identifies the body of his father, who abandoned him 15 years ago. The shipwreck nearby bears a fortune in gold, but when Ben and his sole crewman, Knocker Ellis, return under the cover of darkness, the salvaged gold comes with a bonus: a nuke that they’ve inadvertently triggered with a 24-hour timer. Maynard Chalk, working for a corrupt senator, desperately needs the booty and the bomb because his shell company was a go-between for two factions anticipating the delivery of their goods in a couple of days. There is a sense of wariness among the characters that envelops Whitehill’s debut novel. Distrust adds dimension to Ben’s interaction with people on his island home—a boatman’s curiosity may or may not be innocent—as well as Chalk’s knowledge of terrorists actively looking for the device. A hardy action sequence is ignited by multiple villains making their way to the island and the islanders arming themselves to defend their homes. The novel might have benefited from a stronger female presence: Taheer, an Iranian officer, is introduced after being outwitted by Chalk and forced to tend to his wounds; LuAnna, Ben’s fiancée and a natural resources officer, is little more than a victim; and the island women spend their time making coffee and meals for the men. As for the male characters, none are quite as unforgettable as Chalk, an outrageous antagonist whose animosity for nearly everyone but himself is complemented by a stunning amount of charm. He’s a man who’d suggest using the bomb because he’s bored and wants “to put the fun back in dysfunction.”
A familiar plot that pushes itself above average thanks to a brooding ambiance and a scene-stealing baddie.