ing windows. That’s what sold me.
There is a thing in historical fiction where an author nails details that ring so true, you simply find yourself in that time. And John Gobbell did this in the historical thriller The Neptune Strategy by simply mentioning how some of his characters, driving in the California heat in 1944, crank open the wing windows of their car to get some airflow. Man, remember those things?
This wasn’t all. Even though this is a navel thriller, he hit enough other points to impress me. He knew Southern Pacific serviced the coast, that engineers whistle twice when departing stations, and that a character’s late husband ran cabforwards up Truckee-way a while ago. All these told me this guy knows his stuff.
And the naval procedure – that I do not know (the highest navy rank I ever obtained was “brat”). Still, it all sounds plausible; the organizations, the communications, the orders, the procedures, all the things a destroyer would need to keep moving. My only regret is that my father, a naval captain, passed away a few years ago. I’d have liked to have shared this with him.
So what the hell is this book about, Robert? Well, in this thriller, Commander Todd Ingram is on the bridge of the Maxwell when it comes under air attack. The next thing he knows, a bomb goes off and he’s thrown into the drink, clutching to a chunk of wreckage with the ship’s monkey mascot as his tin can sails off, blasting away at the divebombers. Out in the vast Pacific, what’s the chance he’ll be found?
But found he is, by a Japanese submarine. They take him aboard, not out of humility or anything but simply to test his spirit. And test him they do, giving him all the degenerative jobs, beating him, humiliating him, attempting to break his spirit. But Ingram is pretty tough. Sadly for him, his wife back home is about to have a baby.
However, the I-57 has its own strange mission, one that Washington (and Ingram’s friend Captain Landa) are tracking. And the action continues amid the full color of finely researched Pacific combat with unexpected (yet logical) twists and turns until we finally break the back of the novel in a wonderfully tense showdown where things get resolved in a most satisfying manner.
Man, if I had to tell you to read anything from the Pacific theater and The Caine Mutiny was checked out, I’d tell you to pick up The Neptune Strategy. Great fun, great tension, and you’ll be able to visit the past without a Delorean. Loved it!
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