The fifth entry in Arceneaux’s (North Beach, 2015, etc.) thriller series finds the Sweetwater family searching for one of their own—19-year-old Augie, who inexplicably vanished in Mexico.
Though it’s been only a couple of days since Raul Sweetwater’s heard from his son, Augustus, he’s still worried. Augie had been touring the Mexican Gulf Coast to touch base with clients of Sweetwater Marine, the family’s Texas business. Raul voices his concerns to his uncle Charlie, and despite Charlie’s assurance that Augie is fine, the family’s phone calls to customers and the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City have turned up nothing. So Charlie and Raul head south. Charlie flies to the southern end of the Gulf in Veracruz, while his nephew works his way down the coast until the two reconnect in Tuxpan. Both men—hearing stories of Mexican drug cartels as well as a vicious one-eyed pirate named Mal de Ojo (Evil Eye)—surmise that someone has kidnapped Augie. In the meantime, the dazed teen awakens on a boat, held captive and secured by a chained metal collar. Now effectively a slave, Augie can wait for rescue or try to escape, either option providing the distinct possibility that he won’t survive. Arceneaux sets a breathless pace from the beginning by separating Charlie and Raul, who gather info and clues twice as quickly. In the same vein, perspective from Augie bolsters suspense. He’s introduced on the ship, initially baffled as to how he ended up there. His scenes are often bleak, courtesy of his brutal captors, but the story eases tension with comic relief. Augie, for example, imagines a letter to his family: “Dear Mom, Dad, and Sis—It’s been a good month for pillage and plunder.” The tale references events from preceding books, though narrative context ensures readers who are just joining the series won’t be lost.
Proficiently develops characters, relationships, and storylines in the midst of nonstop action.