A mixed first novel has plenty of action, violence and brooding scenery-along with several remarkably repellent characters- but subtle human relations are not its strongest point. Ben Stark, 14, whose mother is dead, has been raised by her sister, his aunt, who hates his father. Ben, determined to discover the secret of his birth and his mother's death, goes to sea on his father's tuna fishing boat. The voyage is shrouded in an air of illegality and general edginess- particularly on the part of his father (a minor league Ahab) and the Negro engineer, Abraham. The crew consists of three strange Mexicans and the gentle Rafael who becomes Ben's friend. They hit into a huge school of albacore (most of these fishing details are bloody, vivid and interesting) and get a load. But the obsessed, debt-ridden Stark sails on for more and refuses to turn back, even when Rafael becomes sick. With Rafael's death, and the loss of another ship with all hands aboard, Ben leaves- disillusioned. But he returns four years later for a voyage to the town that still holds the secret of his birth.... The sad details are uncovered in a flurry of violence (and Freud) but do not seem quite enough to account for the portentous air of mystery that has surrounded them.