Cutler’s (West of Wisdom, 2006, etc.) latest thriller centers on a young man who finds greed, danger and love in a Caribbean paradise.
Recent college graduate Stacy Biddle decides to play hooky from the professional life his parents imagined for him. He takes a job at Island Life Charters on the beautiful, twin-peaked isle of St. Lucia in the Lesser Antilles. He’s no sooner begun when the Romarin, the sailboat belonging to company owner Franklin Ruddings, comes cruising into Rodney Bay without Franklin. Onboard is his frantic young wife, Amanda, who gives readers their first—and last—impression of Franklin: While shooting at dolphins in hope that their blood would attract sharks and cause a feeding frenzy, Franklin became so excited that he accidentally fell overboard, victim to the very sharks he attracted (“They grabbed his arms and legs and wagged their heads”). Franklin’s death causes the corporate sharks at Island Life to gather, especially his evil cousin, Richard Wronkle, who attempts to gain control of the company and sell it to the highest bidder. Stacy, caught up in these machinations, impulsively takes the Romarin out to sea, unknowingly transporting stowaway Amanda. The two face off against the Venezuelan police and a vividly described hurricane. Cutler’s Caribbean paradise is drawn with vibrancy and color, but some of the book’s dialogue sounds unnatural: During the hurricane, Stacy blurts out, “I didn’t know the sea was so heartless, could be so cruel. I didn’t know! I didn’t know!” As a main character, Stacy is something of a cipher, while descriptions of Wronkle’s villainous machinations are where this brisk narrative comes to life. A headlong plot and stray elements of whimsy combine to make the soap opera–esque events seem funnier than the author might have intended. Nevertheless, readers will likely be too entranced by the environment to complain.
A breezy, lighthearted island story.