cover image The Edge of Honor

The Edge of Honor

Peter T. Deutermann. St. Martin's Press, $22.95 (456pp) ISBN 978-0-312-11051-2

Deutermann delivers a lot more than the standard military thriller in his second novel (after Scorpion in the Sea) , though there is certainly plenty of high-tech weaponry and violent action surrounding the mission of the U.S.S. John Bell Hood in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War. The author's 26 years of active Navy service are put to good use in depicting shipboard life, procedures and reactions under battle conditions. While Deutermann differs from other purveyors of military fiction in his ability to create strong and compelling female characters, the story of Maddy Holcomb's seduction by an intriguing civilian Marine trainer back home in San Diego is essentially a counterpoint to the heart of the matter, her husband Lt. Brian Holcomb's shipboard struggle with an unexpected enemy. Slotted as weapons officer aboard the Hood , Holcomb desperately needs a good rating to advance his career. After a disastrous foul-up makes evident that there is a dangerous drug problem among the enlisted ranks aboard ship, he wants to crack down hard, but is thwarted by the executive officer. Ship's command chooses to deal with the situation in its own off-the-books fashion, keyed somehow, Brian comes to realize, to the enigmatic captain's strange behavior. Brian continues to press to have things done ``the Navy way,'' unaware that the Hood 's mysterious drug kingpin is sabotaging his efforts. Deutermann keeps the adrenalin pumping in this exciting genre standout. (May)