Official Privilege

Peter T. Deutermann, Author
Peter T. Deutermann, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (392p) ISBN 978-0-312-11996-6
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The author of The Edge of Honor Scorpion in the Sea delivers another fine suspense novel enhanced by solid background detail. When the mummified body of a murdered naval lieutenant is discovered in a decommissioned ship in the Philadelphia naval shipyard, naval perations assigns a young line officer, Commander Dan Collins, to conduct the investigation, assisted by civilian lawyer Grace Snow of the Naval Investigative Service. Despite their awkward relationship (NIS would normally handle such cases solo), Collins and Snow uncover a link between the murder and a bungled attempt two years earlier to suppress a Washington sex scandal involving a senior naval officer and an attractive young lieutenant-the dead man's sister, killed by Malachi Ward, a Washington ``contractor,'' when he tried to scare her away from exposing the illicit relationship. In turn, a mobster friend of Ward's had the brother killed when he began pressing for an investigation into his sister's death. Racial issues (the victims were black), bureaucratic infighting and the presence in the line of command of those who want to keep the lid on the scandal (half the fun here is trying to figure out just who these villains are) result in the removal of Collins and Snow from the case. When the pair proceed on their own, they become the targets of the dangerous Ward. Deutermann provides more step-by-step investigative detail than is necessary or desirable, and his characterizations can be thin, but the authenticity implied by his naval background (he's a retired navy captain) is evident in every sentence of this absorbing and, by the end, exciting tale. (June)
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