America’s new top-secret antiaircraft fuse is at the heart of the action in the latest installment of a WWII naval saga (A Code for Tomorrow, 1999, etc.).
Gobbell continues the adventures of refreshingly human Annapolis grad Lieutenant Commander Todd Ingram, still on the destroyer Howell and in the thick of South Pacific shootups. The Howell’s skipper, Jerry Landa, is a hard-charging Brooklynite whose little MIT-grad brother Josh is at work on one of the Navy’s newest weapons, a wee radar-brained antiaircraft shell that will detonate when it nears its target—seemingly a great improvement on the current ammo, though Josh has secretly warned Jerry not to use the shells if they come his way. Which they do. As do the Japanese, who blast the Howell and cause the crew to abandon ship. Word gets out that Landa might have saved the craft if he hadn’t listened to Josh. An enraged Ingram takes a poke at his commanding officer and returns to Long Beach to pick up a new command and dally a bit with Mrs. Ingram—except that she’s been mysteriously whisked off to Africa, even though she holds secrets too hot to let her go anywhere near enemy lines. Somebody’s been messing with the Ingrams’ lives, but they don’t yet realize it. Just as he’s assuming command of a new destroyer, that ship gets shot out from under him too. Good thing he doesn’t know that Frank Ashton, the evil director of the fuse program, has set machinery in motion to have him neutralized. Fuses, a government assassin, the great Admiral Yamamoto, some cowboys in those PT boats Jack Kennedy used to drive, and the good guys from the Howell all come together off Guadalcanal to sort things out in some agreeably tense action.
The women are matronly babes, everybody says “swell” with a straight face, and the skullduggery is hokey. But, jeepers, it’s the ’40s. And the seagoing stuff is dead-on.