Multiple challenges face stalwart Navy lifer Dan Lenson in his first full command.
The eighth installment in Poyer’s adventure saga (Black Storm, 2002, etc.) finds series hero Lenson promoted to Commander and put in charge of a helicopter-capable destroyer, the USS Thomas Horn. A veteran of Desert Storm, Lenson returns to the Persian Gulf in 1992 with an additional mandate, as if the Spruance-class Horn isn’t responsibility enough. Stung by the recent Tailhook scandal, the Navy is accelerating its integration of women into all aspects of service, and the Horn will be the first warship laboratory to test this experiment. Entrenched opposition spans all ranks, although there are also plenty of sailors, like Lenson, who see this integration as the logical next step. New female crewmembers include hardworking GSMFN (gas turbine mechanic fireman) Cobie Kasson, who has left behind a three-year-old daughter, and sassy pals Ina, Lourdes, and Patryce. The crew also boasts some brash Navy SEALs, tasked with intercepting arms being secretly transported to Iraq. The SEALs’ swagger irks the Horn’s resident rooster, Gunner’s Mate Senior Chief Marty Marchetti, who matches them both in brashness and tattoos. Much internal drama ensues aboard ship, including an inconvenient pregnancy, a severed goat’s head, and a suspicious fire in the female quarters, during which Cobie acts admirably. But the multithreaded, episodic plot also travels considerably, from Virginia to various points in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf to Iraq and Egypt and Bahrain, where Aisha Ar-Rahim has spent two years as a special agent for the Navy Criminal Investigative Service. A Harlem-born Muslim, Aisha probes (in a very C.S.I.-esque manner) any crimes that involve Navy personnel. An investigative trail ultimately leads her to the path of the Horn, whose Mideast mission, when suspected, makes it a large target for local enemies.
Poyer packs story with both dense technical info and welcome local color. Unique Aisha merits a spinoff series.