This inventive debut wartime novel transports military buffs right into the heart of the action.
Weatherly, a pen name for a retired U.S. Navy captain who commanded three ships over 30 years of service, has chosen an intriguingly flawed protagonist for this World War II–set story. In 1942, Capt. Sheppard McCloud is lauded as a national hero. He commanded the USS Shenandoah in a failed counterattack against the Japanese after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. He’s now recovering from a serious leg injury from that assault and keeps blaming himself for the deaths of his crew members that day. The Navy finds him fit for duty again, but his unspoken doubts remain: “Now that his physical injuries were healing, the Navy assumed that Sheppard was still that confident leader…but they were wrong.” McCloud soon finds himself in command of the battle cruiser Argonne, part of a battle group tasked with an important mission to secure shipping lanes from German U-boats, ships and planes so that badly needed supply convoys can reach the beleaguered British. The question is whether he’s up for the challenge and whether he can outrun his ghosts: “He had to become the confident leader again for the sake of his new command. He knew that if he failed, the men would doubt him and more sailors—his sailors—again…would die.” Weatherly does a masterful job of describing the American, British and German soldiers who will eventually take part in the battle, and most importantly, he makes readers become invested in these characters. He also accomplishes the tricky task of supplying enough detail for hard-core military aficionados without derailing casual readers. Overall, he successfully brings the world of naval warfare to life in all its sound and fury. However, he never glorifies it, as he also paints the sobering aftermath in somber tones.
A creative addition to the annals of fictional naval warfare.