In this debut thriller, a former U.S. Army captain, after thwarting men trying to abduct his granddaughter, protects his family from terrorists’ retaliation by taking his fight to the open seas.
Eric Tucker hardly has time to enjoy Jerusalem’s Old City with his granddaughter, Dottie, when three men attempt to snatch the 16-year-old. While Dottie runs, Eric, a tunnel rat in Vietnam, successfully fends off the thugs, who are sporting knives and a club. He impresses the Israeli president, who invites Eric, Dottie, and the latter’s mom, Krissie, to dinner, but Col. Feldman warns Eric that he may be the target of another assault. The would-be kidnappers were working for Emir Farouk, whose terrorist organization entails about a hundred men. Feldman arranges a flight for the hero and his family, but Eric’s reluctant to leave behind Pelican, his boat that he sailed from South Carolina. He also surmises Farouk’s goons will go after him, ensuring that Krissie and Dottie will be safe on the plane. Indeed, the terrorists track Eric, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Eventually taking refuge at a private cove, he falls for Maria Calderon, but no one close to him will be secure as long as Farouk stays fixated on him. Ward’s stellar protagonist is multifaceted, thanks in part to flashbacks to his days in Vietnam. Eric’s unquestionably a capable officer, but he’s also tormented by the men he killed and at least one soldier who died under his command. Sequences aboard Pelican are the best, highlighted by crisp details: the ship’s “passage stretched perfectly, paralleled on both sides by an unearthly blue, bioluminescent glow created by phytoplankton in the water.” Nevertheless, there are disappointingly few signs of the pursuing threat. Eric, citing instances in which the baddies have attacked him, includes finding a tracking device on his boat and terrorists striking somewhere after he’s left. Readers craving action, though, may be satiated by an explosive final act.
A nautical adventure bolstered by its immensely likable and earnest hero.