cover image To Kill the Leopard

To Kill the Leopard

Theodore Taylor, Helen Taylor. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), $30 (316pp) ISBN 978-0-15-124097-5

A high-impact techno-thriller, this first adult novel by YA author Taylor ( The Weirdo ) brings readers into the heart of WW II's Battle of the Atlantic. American merchant marine officer Sully Jordan sails on oil tankers. Kap i tan leut nant Horst Kammerer specializes in sinking them, and the leopard insignia on the conning tower of his U-boat symbolizes its commander's killer instinct. The men have their first encounter in March 1941 in the north Atlantic, where Kammerer's torpedoes turn Jordan's ship into a flaming torch. Then, a month after Pearl Harbor, the German captain strikes again, sinking Jordan's new tanker off the Virginia coast. The American takes command of a Q-ship, a decoy tanker with concealed weapons, and goes leopard hunting. The novel sustains interest from first page to last with an exciting story line that climaxes in an enthralling final duel between Jordan and Kammerer. Taylor draws his characters, merchant sailors and U-boat crewmen alike, with vivid realism--the portrait of Kammerer, in particular, captures the reckless spirit of a successful U-boat commander--and accurately depicts such settings as a U-boat base at Lorient in occupied France. A major subplot cogently delineates the risks taken by the French underground and the horrors of Gestapo interrogation. To Kill the Leopard is a winner . (June)