The author of the Stevens and Windermere novels (The Forgotten Girls, 2017, etc.) taps into his nautical knowledge for this rousing seafaring yarn.
In Yokohama, Tomio Ishimaru sneaks onto the cargo ship Pacific Lion with a silver briefcase containing $50 million worth of bearer bonds he’s stealing from the yakuza crime syndicate. On its way to the United States, the ship changes out its seawater ballast incorrectly and begins to list to one side. Soon it founders and might even sink. Everyone except the stowaway abandons ship and its cargo of 5,000 Nissans 200 miles off the coast of Alaska. The ship desperately needs a tow, so several salvage tugs race to the scene, including Gale Force. McKenna Rhodes inherited the tug from her father after he was killed in an accident at sea. Now she and her crew head out to right the crippled ship and tow it to safety, her first salvage job on her own. The stakes are high—the Pacific Lion’s owner agrees to pay Rhodes $30 million if they haul it safely into port, “but the crew wouldn’t be paid one salty dime if they couldn’t save the ship.” It’s an unusual story premise, and a good one—quick, name the last tugboat thriller you’ve read. The crew respects Rhodes as “a damn fine salvage captain” in an overwhelmingly male profession. Smart, brave, and worried, she knows how to command her crew and guide the tug through towering crests and swells. In the midst of all this, the crew must board the damaged ship and pump water back in to right it before beginning to tow. The beleaguered vessel may well take some Gale Force crew to the bottom of the sea. Belowdecks, Ishimaru hides with a treasure and a pistol, setting up an inevitable confrontation. Someone will get rich, and someone will die.
Action-loving readers will be thrilled with this one. Laukkanen is a damn fine storyteller.