Thorn Series Book 5

A brutal hijacker,

A missing heiress,

And a luxury liner racing toward disaster…

In the quiet shallows of the Florida Keys, Thorn has made a home, tying fishing flies and trying to forget the violence of his past. Now Key Largo is his world. He fishes it, breathes it, makes love in it. Until a phone call from Miami changes everything plunging Thorn into the deep waters of madness and revenge…

In Miami, Thorn’s best friend, Sugarman, is fighting for his life. While working security for a luxury liner plagued by theft, Sugarman was attacked by a man with a knife in one hand and 400,000 volts of electricity in the other. And when the M.S. Eclipse sets sail for the Caribbean, both Thorn and Sugarman are swept into a voyage of terror…where a madman hijacks the Eclipse, killing off crew members one by one…where the cruise line owner’s missing daughter reappears, igniting the killer’s passions–and Thorn’s battered heart…where hundreds of lives hang in the balance, as only Thorn stands between a madman’s rage and the ultimate carnage at sea.

James Hall’s novels about a gloomy Florida loner named Thorn are fine, dark reads. This one features an ace villain named Butler Jack who takes a giant cruise ship and its 2,000 passengers hostage, and then gives them lectures on history and language while Thorn tries to find a way to rescue them. Under Cover of Daylight, in which we’re told about the source of all his angst, was Hall’s first Thorn story. — Review

Why does Florida bring out the twisted, surreal side of some of our finest crime writers? Perhaps it’s a product of the state’s schizophrenia: a sanitized, climate-controlled, theme-park paradise, on the one hand, and an art-deco jungle, on the other hand. In “Native Tongue” (1991), Carl Hiaasen imagined a kind of Armageddon set in a theme park, and now James W. Hall has turned a cruise ship into a floating nightmare. When Thorn, Hall’s beach-bum hero perpetually in flight from the vacuousness of the American Dream, finds himself onboard a luxury cruise ship called the “Eclipse”, you know the world is somehow off kilter. Intending to help out his pal Sugarman, head of the ship’s security force, Thorn soon finds himself up against a techno-psycho intent on steering the “Eclipse” into the path of an oil tanker. With enough gadgetry to please Clancy fans, the gut-level narrative drive of a disaster novel, and the creepiest bad guy since Hannibal Lecter, Hall’s latest has “breakout novel” written all over it. Fortunately, the more subtle pleasures of the Thorn series have not been completely obscured by the high-concept plot: there’s some intriguingly detailed, Ross McDonaldlike rummaging through the psychological skeletons in a few familial closets; there’s plenty of amusing interplay between the reclusive Thorn, who’s never seen “Love Boat”, and the talk-show-fanatic Sugarman; and, of course, there’s a bizarre strain of black humor that’s just right for a cruise from Hell. Thorn devotees may be reluctant to share their introverted hero with hordes of techno-thriller fans, but we’d best accept the inevitable: Hall’s ship has come in.  — Bill Ott

A poet as well as a thriller writer, Hall (Gone Wild, etc.) brings an ear for language and an eye for the evocative detail, for the surge of meaning within sound and surface, to his latest which features his customary hero, the moody, middle-aged Thorn. Reuniting with Thorn here is his old friend Sugarman (last seen in Mean High Tide). Bizarre family dysfunction and impending ecological disaster prove familiar but still effective Hall motifs as Sugar signs on as head of security for a billion-dollar Miami-based cruise ship line and Thorn encounters an unusually chilling adversary. — Publishers Weekly

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