Many of Reeman's familiar character types are back in action in 'Torpedo Run.' There's Our Hero, the young, handsome RNVR officer, gallant and admired, but prematurely aged by harsh experience of war at sea. There's the crusty, martinet regular RN officer, recalled 'from the beach' by the needs of the Service, arrogant, unimaginative, willing to sacrifice the lives of his men for his own glory. And there's The Girl, the young beauty with the past obscured in shadows, for whom Our Hero longs as he stands on the bridge of his motor torpedo boat during the long midnight watches in the dark, deadly waters of the Channel. Or the Med. Or, in this case, the Black Sea.
Within these types, Our Hero, Lieutenant Commander John Devane, is largely interchangeable with Sub-Lieutenant Royce of 'A Prayer for the Ship,' Commander Drummond of 'The Destroyers,' or any number of other Reeman heroes.
And yet, despite a certain element of predictability, Reeman stories never seem to grow old.
Maybe that's because he keeps finding new elements, new tensions. One of the new elements in 'Torpedo Run' is the setting, the Crimea. Commander Devane and his task force, 'Parthian,' have been sent to an obscure corner of the European war, in part to fight the Germans, but mostly to prove that the UK is committed to helping take the pressure off strained Soviet forces on the eastern front. Devane therefore has to mix diplomacy with his naval skills, and help the Russians fight their war while he also fights his own.
Devane's personal war introduces the second new element in 'Torpedo Run,' a fully drawn (or relatively so) enemy character. This is the ninth or tenth Reeman title I've read -- or, in this case, listened to -- but it's the first one I can recall where we are really introduced to, and taken into the mind of, Our Hero's principal antagonist. Korvettenkapitan Gerhard Linke is not, by any stretch, a sympathetic character. But we are allowed to hear his interior monologues, and see his mind at work. Unfortunately, Reeman only sustains this for a short time -- a chapter or two at most. By the climax of the story, Linke has faded back into the near-faceless obscurity afforded to most enemy personnel.
I've always said that what Reeman does best is paint scenes of war at sea. And 'Torpedo Run' is chock full of them. Nobody who enjoys his writing will be disappointed by this title.
Narrator David Rintoul does a nice job in the audio recording. Unlike some books-on-tape narrators, he doesn't go over the top in his portrayal of character's voices (why do so many narrators have such a hard time doing adequate simulations of female voices?). He knows how to vary his pace and emphasis based on the needs of the narrative. Best of all, his voice often reminded me of Leonard Graves', the narrator of the classic American naval documentary, 'Victory at Sea' -- a program I grew up watching (in rerun), and which is still (in my opinion) the standard by which all naval history and fiction is measured. Very nicely done.