The first part of Nick Sullivan’s “Deep Shadow” takes place in the ABC Islands in the Leeward Antilles off the drug cartel-dominated Venezuelan coast. Bonaire goes so far as to emblazon “Divers Paradise” on its license plates. The book concludes in Saba in the Lesser Antilles. All of these islands are Dutch owned. Nancy and I were wowed when we visited them. The word “unique” is abused and overused, and I will not use it here. But I will say that their character is unlike any of the many Caribbean islands we have visited. So, as you can imagine, it didn’t take much to move this book to the top of my reading list. I was not disappointed.
Here is a synopsis of the plot. This tale begins when scuba instructor and dive master Boone Fischer and his British-born diving associate, Emily, accidentally see and take a picture of something they shouldn’t — a Venezuelan-owned but Russian-built camouflaged narco sub. What they don’t know is that the cartel’s sub has been hijacked by Muslim terrorists and filled with explosives. The terrorists plan to use it for a major attack against the United States. This takes our happy-go-lucky divers, who just want a day in the water, into a murky world they never dreamed they would enter. They, however, do willingly step up to the plate when their waters are muddied by blood and greed.
Two things become readily apparent when you read this book. First of all, it is a love letter to the Caribbean, to its culture and climate, as well as to scuba diving. It is also very apparent that the author knows his subject and has researched it well. He very effectively combines fact with fiction. For instance, the narco sub in the story is based on an actual one (he admits this toward the end of the book). I always love it when an author can weave plausible non-fiction elements into a good, entertaining, Clancy-esque story while not seeming preachy. Not only is the story a good one, but the characters are likable. Their distinct and quirky personalities make them easy to root for. Profanity is occasionally used, but it seems appropriate in every case. I am not always a fan of terrorist stories, but this one is a good one.
“Deep Shadow’s” detailed use of technology, diving and drug trade knowledge made me believe that this author had done his homework. While we learn about regulators, air mixes, active and passive sonar, sub steering controls and much more, I never felt that he was showing off with an information dump that was taking me out of the story. I think a valid comparison might be Peter Benchley’s “The Deep.”
The book focuses on action, and the narrative tells the story in the points-of-view of Boone and the terrorists. The chapters alternate between these two POVs. There is some romance as a relationship develops between Boone and Emily. The character development and plot are not as richly woven as the paradise setting, but if you want a fun story that will transport you to amazing dive spots, it fills the bill.
Reviewed by David Beckwith, author of ‘A Cover-Up Conspiracy.’