Email this review


A taut, seaworthy, and extremely plausible what-if thriller (Joseph's first) about a nuclear confrontation between an American and a Russian submarine. During a brief period in the early part of 1968, the Americans, the Russians, and the Israelis all lost submarines for reasons that were never satisfactorily explained. Could there have been a silent, vicious undersea war? Joseph's fictional submarine, the U.S.S. Barracuda, is one of America's top-of-the-line nuke boats; it takes off from Norfolk, Virginia, in May 1968, on an extended cruise to Naples, where it will hook up with the US fleet for war games. On board is the best sonar man in the Navy, Jack Sorensen, a freewheeling speed freak who knows the various ""signatures"" (the sounds the engines make) of every Russian submarine that exists--except for one, the Potemkin, the USSR's highly secret titanium-hulled nuclear sub skippered by Captain Nikolai Federov. When the Potemkin accidently collides with the Barracuda in mid-Mediterranean, a deadly cat-and-mouse game ensues, with the two subs taking turns stalking and being stalked, until the Russian is chased out through the Straits of Gibralter and into the North Atlantic, where she's forced to surface to rendevous with a supply ship. When the Barracuda begins taking pictures, Federov submerges, arms his torpedoes, and the novel builds up to a high-tension confrontational ending. In all: more thrilling than The Hunt for Red October, and without the latter's dreadnought prose style. To Kill the Potemkin depends on characters and old-fashioned action (not technology and reams of computer jargon) for its excitement: the result is an enormously readable hammock-swinger that will make even the most devoted landlubber keep a weather eye out for periscopes.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1986
Publisher: Donald Fine