In Sweetapple’s novel, two scientists, one a former special ops undercover agent, are kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria.
Dr. Tanya Melnik, a naturalist for the National Park Service, and Dr. Gwen Stillwater, a marine biologist, visit the island of São Tomé to study coral reef formations. Underwater, they notice some reefs appear to be heavily coated with oil and some are bleached. Shortly thereafter, Gwen and Tanya are shocked to see their dive boat speeding away, abandoning them miles from shore. They are soon kidnapped and taken by boat to a remote village. They’re told they are being held for ransom. When Gwen’s husband, Jim (who was Tanya’s former undercover partner when she worked in special ops), learns about the women’s disappearance, he believes they were taken by pirates. He travels to Nigeria with his colleague, special agent Morgan Smith, where they meet with friends Col. Hans Becker and Griz Grizwalski, the chief of security for Fossil Petroleum. When a ransom exchange goes awry, Jim lands in a deadly conflict, possibly related to circumstances stemming from his previous work in Nigeria. Additionally, it’s revealed that oil spills in the area may be linked to the Russians. The novel skillfully braids several storylines—the search for Gwen and Tanya; Jim’s perilous adventures; and various illegal activities, particularly in the world of environmental cleanup—and Sweetapple (Wasp Sting, 2016 etc.) shows deep knowledge of the setting and international challenges his characters face. At times, dense dialogue slows the pace of an otherwise high-energy story. Jim’s tenacity and resourcefulness make him a likable protagonist, and his well-developed back story adds dimension. Fans of action-adventure will enjoy. The book includes an author’s note explaining the importance of preserving coral reefs.
A layered, action-packed mystery with a cautionary message about the need to protect our environment.