A captivating, action-packed,
historically astute thriller
In this World War II novel, an American captain of a cargo ship gets paid to smuggle a Jewish family to safety and ends up doggedly pursued by Nazis.
Jake Rogers is the captain of an aging tramp steamer, a cargo ship he uses to transport often questionable merchandise for equally suspect clients. He candidly declares his amorality: “I get paid for what I do. Duty and honor have nothing to do with it.”
While in Amsterdam, he’s given his most peculiar shipment yet, a Jewish family of six: Uncle Levy, a rabbi; his three young children; and two sisters, Miriam and Truus, his nieces. Rogers is paid by Miriam’s father, Mr. Maduro, to convey the family to Gibraltar, a dangerous mission given that the “heartless sea” is swarmed by “trigger-happy U-boat captains,” a perilous situation thrillingly portrayed by Miller.
The task is further complicated when Rogers’ boat, the Peggy C, is boarded by three German soldiers in search of contraband—he has no choice but to overtake them and keep them prisoner. In addition, the Peggy Cis tirelessly pursued by an ambitious U-boat commander, Oberleutnant zur See Viktor Brauer, a zealous Nazi angling to climb the ranks.
Much of the plot is cinematically formulaic—Rogers is a troubled loner with a dark past who gradually comes to experience a moral transformation, partly because of his growing affection for Miriam. She requites his love, blandly communicating her feelings: “You are a very strange, very wonderful man, Captain Jake Rogers. I have never met anyone like you. You are not afraid.”
But the action—and there is no shortage of it—is electrifying. Further, the author’s knowledge of the relevant historical material—in particular, the naval aspects—is extraordinary. While Miller’s novel has its shortcomings, it is still an intelligent and exciting read.
A captivating, action-packed thriller that’s historically astute.