Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Tremain's Book Corner: "The Passenger" by F.R. Tallis

The Passenger
Author: F.R. Tallis
Reviewed By: Tremain Jackson, South Branch Manager
Personal Rating: 3.5 Stars

Book Summary: 1941.  A German submarine, U-471, patrols the stormy inhospitable waters of the North Atlantic. It is commanded by Siegfried Lorenz, a maverick SS officer who does not believe in the war he is bound by duty and honor to fight in.

U-471 receives a triple-encoded message with instructions to collect two prisoners from a vessel located off the Icelandic coast and transport them to the base at Brest - and a British submarine commander, Sutherland, and a Norwegian academic, Professor Bjornar Grimstad, are taken on board.  Contact between the prisoners and Lorenz has been forbidden, and it transpires that this special mission has been ordered by an unknown source, high up in the SS.  It is rurmored that the Grimstad is working on a secret weapon that could change the course of the war...

Then, Sutherland goes rogue, and a series of shocking, brutal events occur.  In the aftermath, disturbing things start happening on the boat.  It seems that a lethal, supernatural force is stalking the crew, wrestling with Lorenz for control.  A thousand feet under the dark, icy waves, it doesn't matter how loud you scream.

Personal Review: I admit, going into the novel I didn't know what to expect.  The title seemed rather mysterious that tied right in with the cover art and that was enough for me to pick it up from the library stacks.  This came from an author I had never heard of before and was covering the time of WWII in a German U-boat no less.  Okay, for at this time, this was before the U.S. had entered into the war against the Axis Powers.

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved this thriller.  Plus, there's something about things going bad when you're deep down in the sea and trapped in a sub with nowhere to go that just makes you want to keep turning those pages.  Not only was it a historical thriller, but it added a bit of a gothic ghost story at the center of it; however, it wasn't so forced that it became the focal point of the story.  I mean come on, a ghost in a sub?  Not that I've read or seen that before, but it doesn't sound like it would make for the best theme.

What the author was able to cleverly do was to leave that "presence" up to the reader to decide.  He never comes out and says that "hey, there's a ghost in this place," but gives you that ominous sense of dread and anxiety that could leave you thinking that the boat may be cursed and wondering what may have been imagined or not.

The story was well-developed, as were the characters, and the cast was kept small (I mean you're in a sub) so it really allowed for Tallis to delve into the psychological aspects of the horror in the boat along with the war itself.  Not it does spend some time discussing submarine warfare, maintenance, and things of that nature, but fortunately it's not as extensive as you'd get in a Tom Clancy novel, who would literally teach you how to drive the thing by the end of the book.  If you're looking for a true thriller/horror/ghost story, then this won't be the read for you as it only hints at that.  However, it will be interesting to watch as you discover who and what the "passenger" may be.

The pace moves along fast, remember, the novel is under 300 pages, and it builds in suspense the entire time.  I got more than I bargained for when taking a chance on a new author and it's a good book for anyone who enjoys thrillers, submarine fiction, or WWII fiction.  So look out for a copy at your Abilene Public Library to see what you think about it.

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