A Book Spy Review: ‘Gale Force’ by Owen Laukkanen

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Gale Force.jpgOwen Laukkanen puts his Stevens & Windermere series (The Forgotten Girls) on hold to deliver this gripping maritime thriller.  

McKenna Rhodes is a fine salvage captain. If there’s a single knock on her or her ship, Gale Force, it’s that she’s untested. However, that changes quickly when Pacific Lion, a massive cargo ship, suffers damage on its way to the United States and suddenly needs a tow to safety. 

Rhodes inherited Gale Force from her father, who died at sea in an accident. McKenna witnessed his death, and it changed her. No longer is she fearless of the deep sea, opting instead to stay tight to the Alaska coastline. But refusing to take chances means that Rhodes and her crew are barely making ends meet and are struggling to keep their operation going. So when the owners of the Pacific Lion offer $30 million to whoever can tow their cargo ship to safety, that kind of cash goes a long way to making Rhodes feel less apprehensive.

If money talks, $30 million screams right in your face. 

Unfortunately for Rhodes, she’s not the only one after the money. Other ships, including one bigger than hers, are en route to Pacific Lion‘s position in hopes of scoring the reward money for saving the massive vessel out of Yokohama. But that’s hardly the only hurdle in Rhodes’ way. . . 

As if the swirling winds and violent seas aren’t dangerous enough, Rhodes knows that her crew will need to risk their lives in order to complete the job. What she doesn’t know, though, is that a man named Tomio Ishimaru had snuck onto the Pacific Lion after stealing $50 million in Yakuza bearer bonds. Multiple criminal organizations want Ishimaru’s head and the money he stole, making the weather and raging waters the least of Rhodes’ problems — something she’ll soon find out. 

While there have been some great thrillers with high-powered action sequences taking place at sea in recent memory (Mark Cameron’s Tom Clancy Power and Empire, David Poyer’s Hunter Killer, and almost everything from Cussler’s universe, just to name a couple from last year alone), I can’t think of a single thriller comparable to Laukkanen’s latest offering, which is really remarkable when so many new releases are just retellings of the same story already printed over and over again with different names and cover art. 

While it might seem odd jumping into a book that stars a salvage boat and its crew, Laukkanen’s natural storytelling ability is enough to hook readers early on, even before the action kicks off. Once it does, there’s tons of suspense and enough high-speed twists to make readers feel like they’re on the choppy waters with McKenna Rhodes. Laukkanen’s character development is flawless, making readers really care about Rhodes and her crew. Trust me, more than a few will be holding their breath as the ending nears. 

Owen Laukkanen’s latest thriller features a riveting, tense, and blazing-fast plot. . . his Stevens & Windermere series is solid, but Gale Force is Laukkanen’s finest work so far. 

Book Details

Author: Owen Laukkanen
Pages: 384 (Hardcover)
ISBN: 0735212635
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: May 8, 2018
Book Spy Rating: 8.0/10

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Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck is the editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, and one of the thriller genre’s most well-recognized critics. He currently lives in southwest Michigan with his wife and their five children. For more information, make sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook

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