THE LAST LIEUTENANT by John J. Gobbell

THE LAST LIEUTENANT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The fact-based epic of an unconquerable WW II skipper's determination to escape the surrender of Corregidor--published to coincide with the 50th anniversary of V-J Day. The Pacific theater, 1942. As Japanese Zeroes fire round after punishing round at the tiny Philippine island, Admiral Nimitz plans a counterstrike based on his cryptographers' success in cracking the Japanese military code: Knowing that Admiral Yamamoto plans to attack Midway on Emperor Hirohito's birthday, Nimitz will lure the Japanese Navy into a trap. Taking his cue from Lt. Cmdr. John H. Morrill's 1943 memoir South from Corregidor, Gobbell unfolds the tale of Lt. Todd Ingram, who commandeers a tiny boat in the last hours of the Japanese bombardment in defiance of the order to surrender. Ingram can't afford to be taken because only he knows that Cryptographer Walter Radtke is actually an Axis spy who's learned of Nimitz's trap and intends to pass the information on to Lt. Kiyoshi Tuga as soon as he can find his way to an unattended radio. Casting off from Corregidor in pursuit of Radtke against a frightful background of din and death, Ingram steams into nonstop action--and that's just the trouble with this sturdy, cluttered novel. Gobbell (The Brutus Lie, not reviewed) wants to paint the Pacific War in precise, unsparing strokes, making every shot resound while keeping his eye on Ingram's and Radtke's high-stakes game. But he's more successful at the first endeavor than the second, and less successful still at giving his heroic characters any depth or distinguishing features. The Axis rant and rape like the Yellow Peril in a propaganda short, and poor Ingram can't ""think of a worse combination than the hideous political systems [Radtke and Tuga] represented."" Lacking Frederick Forsyth's alchemical ability to transform the minutiae of military intrigue into high-voltage suspense, Gobbell is left with a million dramatic details that never quite catch fire.

Pub Date: Aug. 14th, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: St. Martin's