Picks and Pans Review: Blood Tide

updated 06/11/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/11/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robert F. Jones

A post-Vietnam, postfeminist swashbuckler, this novel is full of diverting derring-do, high-seas heroes and lowlife scoundrels. Jones, a former writer for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED and TIME and author of three previous novels, including Blood Sport, never stands on ceremony—or plausibility—and keeps all his characters in a state of wracking turmoil.

His heroine is Miranda Culdee, a 25ish woman of the sea whose sloop, which she charters out, is stolen by her first (and only) mate, Hugh Curten. A parallel plot reveals that Curten, who sails Miranda's ship to the Philippines, is a peculiar sort of U.S. drug agent.

Culdee doesn't know this, however, and she takes off after Curten, shanghaiing her dad, retired Navy boatswain's mate (and former POW) James Culdee, into being her crew on a transpacific voyage from California in the family schooner she has refitted. They end up in the middle of a multicornered situation involving Curten, some local insurrectionists, various Filipino thugs, an old Japanese Navy officer still trying to live down World War II and another American agent of vague affiliation.

Punch-outs and shoot-ups abound, and the title is just about literal, so plentiful is the blood-spilling. Jones throws out gobs of maritime jargon—one vessel is "a fast, hard-hitting, throaty little Swift boat that could turn 30 knots with her twin diesels two-blocked." He also leans toward odd juxtapositions of the extreme and the prosaic. "A reek of pierced guts stung the air," he writes of one battle scene. "The crowd retreated but redoubled its outcry."

Adventure fans, however, probably won't mind such lapses and may find this novel a particularly nice change of pace if they've been weathering the Ludlum or Clancy schools of high-tech, high-density fiction. (Atlantic Monthly, $19.95)

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