China Sea

David Poyer, Author St. Martin's Press $24.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-312-20287-3
An American frigate clashes with a Chinese pirate warship in Poyer's latest nautical adventure, which begins innocuously enough when Dan Lenson takes command of the USS Gaddis, an embattled vessel that has just been donated to Pakistan. Lenson is supposed to captain the ship only to its final destination, where his onboard Pakistani counterpart is scheduled to take over, but a disastrous emergency rescue of an Egyptian vessel near the Suez Canal reveals the tension between the American and Pakistani crews and their unease with the terms of the donation. Saddled with a ragtag, mutinous crew, Lenson is further plagued by an unidentified serial killer on board, who continues to elude capture. The voyage takes yet another strange turn when the captain gets new orders to head for China, and finds his ship involved in an international mission to curb a Chinese pirate operation while the rest of the world watches the U.S. take on Saddam Hussein. As the operation progresses, Lenson realizes he is being steered toward a final confrontation with a Chinese warship, knowing full well that if he loses the battle, the existence of his mission will be disavowed by his superiors. Poyer displays a fine sense of pace and plot when the focus is on seagoing affairs, and the battle scenes are scintillating and satisfying. But several nagging problems surface: the author occasionally gets caught up in nautical jargon; the writing veers toward cliche when the narrative drifts from the ship's maneuvers; and several plot machinations involving a relatively insignificant incident strain credulity. Poyer is a master of the genre, but this title lacks the consistency of his best work. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
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