Pirates by Timothy J. Lockhart - book review: It’s anyone’s guess who will make it alive out of Lockhart’s gruesome, exhilarating adventure

American author Timothy J. Lockhart delivers a barrage of thrills, spills, and blood-soaked ferocity in his explosive action-adventure yarn set in the hazardous rough waters of the Caribbean.
Pirates by Timothy J. LockhartPirates by Timothy J. Lockhart
Pirates by Timothy J. Lockhart

Lockhart, a lawyer in Virginia, is a retired Navy Reserve captain and former US Navy intelligence officer whose debut novel, Smith, garnered strong reviews. Praised in Booklist for its ‘beautifully wrought scenes’ and ‘artfully done violence,’ Smith showcased Lockhart’s talent for edgy suspense and thrilling action sequences.

The author’s new novel, Pirates, is a modern-day high-seas thriller with the same taut, suspenseful prose, as well as extensive, exhilarating gun battles, a disturbing blend of violence and eroticism, and unforgettable villainy.

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At the heart of the story is tough but sensitive loner Hal Morgan, a former Navy SEAL who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and who now works as a boatman in Puerto Rico.

Disfigured in a desert war, Hal’s face and body are badly scarred, with his hairless, mottled skin appearing to have ‘melted and fused,’ settling into ‘a rough repulsiveness that was as unpleasant to look at as it would be to touch.’ Missing an eye and physically impaired, Hal, who has become a social outcast, walks with a limp and wears a black eye patch.

While returning a charter boat to the marina, his lonely life takes an unexpected turn when he comes across a sinking daysailer. On board is a beautiful young woman wearing a torn black cocktail dress, lying unconscious in the cockpit.

Shortly after he rescues her, she steals his pistol and orders him, at gunpoint, to return to the daysailer before it sinks so that she can salvage a bag she left on board, containing a stolen half a million dollars in cash.

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It turns out that the feisty, 23-year-old Ana Cortez Bolaño, a Cuban who now lives in the Dominican Republic, is the mistress of vicious crime boss Jaime Rivera, nicknamed ‘El Bucanero.’

In a desperate bid to escape Rivera’s abusive company, she fled his lair during a tropical storm, hoping to reach Miami, but didn’t get far.

Now Rivera is hunting her down to mete out just punishment and avoid the wrath of the king boss, a ruthless old man labelled El Viego who has given Rivera three days to recover the money or suffer the consequences.

Although not wanting to get involved, Hal isn’t the type to back down from a fight so when Rivera tracks down his absconded mistress, brandishing enough firepower to obliterate Hal’s little ship, the notion of giving up Ana and her bag of loot never enters the ex-SEAL’s thoughts.

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What follows is a tense, cat and mouse story with Rivera and his obedient crew members relentlessly pursuing Hal and Ana and brutally dispatching anyone who gets in their way.

The unpredictable, blood-and-guts page-turner suddenly shifts course when Francisco Torres Bolaño, Ana’s protective uncle, attempts to get Ana out of the mess he feels he helped get her into. Francisco, a Cuban Intelligence officer who spied for Castro and trained with the KGB, is well equipped to take on Rivera, a man he utilised in the past to glean information about the Dominican underworld.

But with bullets zinging and baddies converging from all sides, it’s anyone’s guess who will make it alive out of Lockhart’s gruesome, exhilarating adventure.

(Stark House Press, paperback, £12.95)