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A struggling captain of a salvage tug and his crew find plenty of trouble on a scorching vessel.

Wheaton (Wages of Sin, 2017, etc.) has lately been whipping up a storm of thrillers. This time, he sets his sights on the pill-popping captain of the salvage tug Yemanjá, Wyatt Stoke, and his ragtag band of misfits—first mate Jake Delahoussaye, an aging alcoholic; engineer Chuy Perez, a former gang member and three-time felon; and Party Mpanbani, a tall, experienced salvager from South Africa without a green card. Wyatt has already washed out of the Navy, been dropped as a long-haul trucker after a random drug test, and lost his job with a power company in Louisiana. Then a barely remembered uncle leaves him his salvage tug and a “crumbling old swamp shack” on the wrong side of Baytown, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico. If only Wyatt could make some money out of the small, underfunded company that must compete with the big guys. When a container ship is reported burning and unanchored, drifting toward the entrance to Buffalo Bayou, and nobody seems to be racing to stake the salvage claim, Wyatt sees his chance—board the vessel and turn on the sprinkler system to keep the craft from sinking. Difficult, dangerous, and potentially lucrative. But when he and Jake finally reach the engine room, they discover the bodies of two men who had been tied up and shot; they are now involved in something far larger and more sinister than a salvage operation. This is a plot-driven narrative filled with a broad assortment of menacing players, from bayou swamp rats to a beautiful Russian oligarch. Despite the minimum attention paid to character development, Wyatt and his cohorts come off as a likable, loyal makeshift family that readers can root for. Occasional editing blips are intrusive (for example, “There were ten times as men law enforcement officials”), but overall the pace never slackens. Wheaton includes enough details about the mechanics of diving and the legalities of salvaging to create a realistic background for this over-the-top adventure.

A page-turning sprint with the potential for a series of thrillers starring the nautical hero.

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher
Program: Kirkus Indie
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