The Port Fee by Garrett Dennis

The Port Fee

A Storm Ketchum Adventure
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The discovery of two bodies and the possibility of sunken treasure thwart retiree Storm “Ketch” Ketchum’s plans for a relaxing trip in this thriller.

It’s been a tumultuous year for Ketch, having had run-ins with nefarious individuals and perhaps breaking a law or two. So a bit of recreation on uninhabited Portsmouth Island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks seems ideal. Because girlfriend Kari Gellhorn’s busy with her dive shop, Ketch takes along 7-year-old grandson Bean; Ketch’s young friend Henry; and fellow Hatteras Island resident Suzanne and her daughter Sally. Unfortunately, trouble may be brewing when Bean and Sally claim they’ve seen zombies and the mysterious Sea Hag. The zombies turn out to be a couple of drowned divers, but the Sea Hag’s harder to explain: an old woman who warns the children against stealing pirate captain Peter Painter’s treasure. Ketch and Henry find gold coins after the Coast Guard’s retrieved the bodies, and later, shadowy figures on a suddenly appearing barge shoot down Ketch’s drone. Ketch, who links the divers to an abandoned ship the Coast Guard’s recently found, soon sees the likelihood of a treasure waiting to be unearthed. Someone else is looking for booty, too, and may be willing to ensure Ketch, Kari, and pal Len don’t resurface from their gold-scouring dive. Despite references to Ketch’s prior “sleuthing,” the novel’s more adventure than detective story, including a boat chase, a life in peril, and a kidnapping. The unrefined protagonist may lose a few readers’ sympathies, considering how he’s acquired his wealth (further details will spoil a preceding tale). But he balances this with virtue: he’s a loyal boyfriend, turning down at least one offer, and is in the process of adopting Bean, with the boy’s mother dead and his father (Ketch’s son) apathetic. Though the third in Dennis’ (An Olde Christmas Carol, 2015, etc.) series and featuring numerous returning characters, the story remains easy to follow, even with nods to Ketch’s past, and can act as a stand-alone. A person’s surprise appearance near the end, however, will have much more impact for readers familiar with the previous books.

Plentiful action and a protagonist who unflinchingly braves villains and moral quandaries.

Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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