Pirate Alley by Stephen Coonts
I was having doubts about the appeal of taking the family on an ocean cruise. After all, history is loaded with notable sinking’s, outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease, and more recently onboard fires leaving passengers afloat on multi-million dollar cruise ships that are DIW (dead in the water).
One would think that the cruise industry would be sinking (no pun intended) with all the bad press received of late.
However, a more frightening threat, that can really spoil a vacation is, – well – pirates. Yes the 21st century equivalent of those ocean marauders glamorized by the stories of the Caribbean pirates Jean Lafitte, Blackbeard and Henry Morgan are active in the oceans of the world. In fact, BBC News reports that from March to November of 2005 more than 23 pirates’ hijackings were reported along the Somali coast. So many ships have been attacked in this stretch of ocean that it has been called “Pirate Alley.”
With 850 passengers aboard, the cruise ship Sultan of the Seas is captured by Somali pirates who threaten to kill everybody aboard if they’re not paid 200 American dollars. The brutality of the pirates is shown as they wantonly kill most of the bridge crew, throwing both the dead and the wounded overboard.
The pirates aren’t the only threat to be dealt with. An Islamic terrorist group plans to kill all of the passengers after the ransom is paid. Enter Coonts’ returning heroes, CIA department head Jake Grafton and his right-hand man, Tommy Carmellini. Together, with the help of the US Fleet just offshore, CIA operatives, Navy Seals, a couple of Mossad agents, they set a plan in motion to rescue the hostages while doing the most harm possible to the bad guys.
The situation could have been quickly resolved if not for the interference of Washington bureaucrats, who put their political survival ahead of a quick resolution. The US Navy is on the scene and Commander Toad Tarkington is ready to wipe out the pirates, but is told to “stand down” by his superiors.
PIRATE ALLEY is a first class thriller with the good guys once again prevailing and the bad guys getting what they deserve. Jake Grafton returns in classic form and Tommy Carmellini meets every challenge he faces with his calm bravado.
I enjoyed what Stephen Hunter has called “The one-sit-read champion of the season,” and highly recommend PIRATE ALLEY to all fans of the genre.