Buried at Sea
Cover blurbs link this debut thriller to the recent nonfiction bestsellers Into Thin Air and The Perfect Storm, but its real ancestors are the expertly crafted nautical adventures of Hammond Innes. Like Innes, professional seaman Garrison creates characters who are unique and then puts them into situations full of believable peril. Do-gooder physicians Sarah and Michael Stone and their 10-year-old daughter, Ronnie, seem to have an ideal life: they sail the rugged waters of the Pacific in their hospital ship, "an elderly, sun-bleached 38-foot Nautor Swan," bringing medicine to islands off the trade routes. One day, just as they are about to put in at a remote atoll, a giant ship carrying liquefied nitrogen gas radios an SOS: its captain has been seriously injured in a fall. The doctors split up. Sarah drops Michael off and heads for the nearby carrier -- which promptly scoops up the sailboat and steams away while Michael watches, helpless, from shore. After this smashing start, Garrison piles on even more empathy, action and suspense. On board the carrier, a gnarled, fascinating old China hand is suffering from botched surgery to remove a bullet. While Sarah works to keep him alive, his very nasty bodyguard uses violence to keep the crewand Sarah and Ronniefrom finding out where the valuable, dangerous cargo is headed. Meanwhile, Michael repairs an islander's canoe and sails for Palau, where a friendly local politician discovers that Dr. Stone has a very good reason for not calling in the U.S. Navy to help him recover his wife, daughter and sailboat. Instead, Michael recruits a team of Chinese gangsters (and one stranded female American ex-cop) to go after the kidnappers in a fast-forward showdown that takes him to Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. Garrison writes about these exotic people and places with immense vigor; it's no wonder that Disney optioned the book for a cool million.
A highly accomplished debut avenger, enlivened with conflicted characters and a barnacle-encrusted view of the world. First-novelist Garrison here takes the Elmore Leonard formula: resourceful good folks up against a pair of bad guys, one physically threatening, the other criminally ingenious to a Pacific island setting. The Stone family—American Michael, his South African wife Sarah, and their precocious ten-year-old daughter Ronnie—sail among the Pacific's forgotten islands, swapping their medical expertise for fuel and supplies. After putting Michael ashore on a tiny atoll to help a dying Micronesian islander, Sarah and Ronnie answer a distress call from a large tanker and find themselves hauled aboard. As the tanker steams away with them, Michael chases in the islander's battered outrigger—and suffers every variety of high-seas bad luck imaginable (he loses his compass; the boom snaps back and knocks him out cold, and so on). At the same time, Sarah is forced by the menacing Moss to tend the gunshot wounds of 78-year-old "Mr. Jack" Powell. Mr. Jack, who has more than a grudge against Japan, plans to take his tanker, filled with highly combustible, supercooled liquid natural gas, into Tokyo Bay, where he'll blow everything sky- high. He's betting that the catastrophe will cripple the nation's economy. But first he must contend with Michael, who not only manages to track the tanker but wins back both boat and wife—only to have the wily Mr. Jack handcuff himself to Ronnie as security. Meanwhile, Garrison's take on boat-bum life is grim and fascinating: Sudden death lurks behind spectacular scenery, and every psyche is burdened with an unresolvedconflict. Thus, Michael and Sarah go once more into the breech (and the bilge) to save their daughter, and millions of Japanese, from becoming freeze-dried flambé. Nautical lore, colorful island types, dramatic plotting, and blessedly restrained prose.