cover image CUBA STRAIT


Carsten Stroud, . . Simon & Schuster, $25 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-7432-4389-6

Nonstop action in the volatile waters between Cuba and south Florida makes this sixth novel from the author of Close Pursuit a white-knuckle thriller. Spanning about two weeks in 2002, the story begins on a Cuban airfield as an American named Charles Green, who has a mysterious and possibly nefarious connection to Castro, prepares to take off with unknown cargo and an enigmatic passenger. Green's plane goes down near the Florida Keys, where Rick Broca—a former police officer now working as a technical consultant in Hollywood—happens to be taking care of his boss's boat. The resourceful Broca engineers a harrowing underwater rescue of the pilot. All this happens in the first few chapters, and the narrative barely slows down from there. Broca sets out to take Green, who says he's a navy flier, to Miami, but some Cubans want Green—and his cargo—back, and they intercept the boat. Meanwhile, Broca gets even further involved when his boss, a film mogul, is inexplicably captured and held prisoner by Cuban authorities. The whole mess escalates into an international incident, with the U.S. and Cuba on the brink of war and the U.N. making desperate interventions. Stroud lards his narrative with technical and military minutiae à la Tom Clancy, but he's also an excellent storyteller with an ear for tough-guy, wisecracking dialogue. Implausibilities abound, and some may find the jingoism excessive, but Stroud's narrative is so gripping that even skeptical readers will be hard pressed to put the book down. Agent, Barry Karpfinger. (Jan.)

Forecast:Clancy fans and anyone who knows that "Gitmo" is military slang for the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay seem to be Stroud's target readership here. The author's nonfiction book Deadly Force is being made into a film starring Johnny Depp, and if it takes off, it should help sales of all of Stroud's novels.