RogerBW's Blog

Shadow Hunter, Geoffrey Archer 11 November 2022

1989 late Cold War naval/espionage thriller. The captain of the nuclear attack submarine Truculent, sent north to join a large NATO exercise, has dropped out of communication. But what's he planning to do?

The inspiration from The Hunt for Red October is clear, and the cast is substantial: the rogue captain, his officers, the other captain who knows him and is sent after him, and several factions among the Soviets. That's necessary, because the main tension in the book comes from not knowing what the rogue is planning: is he going to plant advanced, but inactive, anti-submarine mines outside a Soviet harbour, or hand over one of those mines to Soviet naval intelligence? Or is he going to do something really stupid that might start a war? One Soviet faction wants foreign confrontation to draw attention from domestic economic worries; another just wants to get on with its technology transfer in peace.

It doesn't help that the captain has learned, just before he sailed, that not only has his wife been having it away with all and sundry, the most recent one was a Soviet agent…

This isn't really a tale of heroes, either; there's an obvious good guy, the rogue's friend who has to stop him, but it's much more about people doing their jobs, and the senior officers aboard Truculent very reluctantly coming to the conclusion that they're going to have to relieve the Old Man of command.

The research is thorough – I didn't spot any errors, and I can be quite picky [pause for expressions of surprise] – and while the characters can be weakly-drawn and implausible at times (especially the civilians) there's enough to them, and enough happening, to retain my enthusiasm. Not perhaps an ideal place to start one's journey into real-world naval fiction, but very neatly done even so.

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  1. Posted by John P at 12:34am on 12 November 2022

    Have you read "Fire Lance" by David Mace?

    Nuclear war has broken out and the USS Vindicator is the last major US fleet asset with its Fire Lance missiles. Ordered into the northern hemisphere covered in a nuclear winter, it is being fought over by the various surviving factions of the US government. Written in the late 80's it may be a bit dated but it is still a good read.

    By the way, ignore the picture on the cover! that's just some (very) poor artwork that doesn't bear any relation to the novel.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 01:42pm on 12 November 2022

    I have not. Insofar as there was a plan for this strand of my reading, it was "fiction dealing with the Royal Navy post-WWII", but I'll take a look.

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