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Cindy Vallar, Editor & Reviewer
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Cover Art: Pirate Alley
Pirate Alley
By Stephen Coonts
St. Martin’s, 2013, ISBN 978-0-312-37284-2, US $26.99 / CAN $31.00
Paperback ISBN 978-1-250-04641-3, $9.99
eBook ISBN 978-1-250-02331-5, $12.99

Mustafa al-Said and his band of pirates orchestrate a daring kidnap plan that will net them and their warlord a hefty ransom – $2,000,000. All they must do is capture a British cruise ship, and Mustafa has the experience, expertise, flotilla, armament, and manpower to succeed in the endeavor.

Arch Penney is the epitome of a professional and respected captain in command of the Sultan of the Seas. What should be a relaxing cruise turns into a bloody nightmare when pirates board his vessel and kill members of his crew and some of the passengers to force his surrender.

An inveterate newsman and radio talk-show host, Mike Rosen knows a story when he sees it unfold before his eyes. Rather than huddle in the ship’s passageways with the other passengers as the pirates demand, he investigates and acquires details of what’s transpiring. Then he writes his report and sends it to his producer back in Denver, where the capture of the cruise ship becomes the top news story across the world. When the kidnappers locate him, he becomes their pawn in sending threats and demands to the British and American governments.

Rear Admiral Toad Tarkington of the U. S. Navy commands Task Force 151, which patrols the waters of the Persian Gulf, in search of pirates. Being on the scene should mean that his decisions to assist the Sultan carry the most weight, but when he informs Washington of his attack plan, the powers that be order him to back off. That decision complicates any further rescue plans because it permits the pirates to reach Eyl, Somalia where they offload their captives.

After interrogating an Al Qaeda operative, Admiral Jake Grafton – who works with the CIA – realizes the audacious kidnapping might be far more sinister and devastating than anyone imagined. Islamic militants plan to slaughter the passengers and crew in hopes of starting a major conflagration between the United States and the Muslim world. Jake is tasked with negotiating the ransom, and the best way to do that is to walk into the lion’s den. But he doesn’t go alone – his right-hand operative, Tommy Carmellini, comes along, and together they, along with other CIA operatives, Navy SEALS, and the Marines, attempt to rescue the captives before either the pirates or the militants succeed in carrying out their threats to blow up the fortress where the crew and passengers are being held.

Pirate Alley is the eleventh novel in the Jake Grafton series, and it doesn’t disappoint. Coonts also brings in another series character, Tommy Carmellini, to craft a spine-tingling, heart-thudding scenario that keeps readers on the edge of their seats, unable to close the book. The author masterfully makes us feel the frustration, fear, and anger the characters experience as he brings to life this what-if scenario with such realism that we almost feel as if we are aboard the cruise ship during the capture, inside the pirate lair, or standing on the deck of the naval ship as the story unfolds.
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