By Mark Combs
Author: Michael Hervey
Series or Standalone: Series (Book 1 in the Hall McCormick series)
What started out as an ordinary day for Soundkeeper Gale Pickens takes a dreadful turn when she stops a barge that is polluting the pristine waters off the coast of Charleston. Beaten and left for dead, one of the polluters kidnaps her and she cannot bear to think about her captor’s intentions.
Hall McCormick, a reluctant Refuge Enforcement Officer, is learning the ropes in his new job, which he hopes is only temporary while he waits for the marine biologist job he really wants. He is sad that the beautiful young environmentalist he dated briefly has mysteriously disappeared. While pursuing poachers and keeping the shoreline safe for all animals, he finds kills of marine life, due to someone dumping toxic chemicals into Port Royal Sound.
After Gale’s boat is found deserted and drifting to sea, will anyone keep searching for her? Will the criminal polluters be caught in time to save Gale’s life? Will Hall learn to appreciate his job as much as being a scientist? As he races against time, Hall needs to find Gale’s would-be killer before it’s too late.
Soundkeeper is a nicely-paced thriller told mostly from the viewpoint of Hall McCormick, a rookie South Carolina Refuge Enforcement Officer. This a refreshing change from the standard cop yarns. We get to see the South Carolina coastline from Hall’s perspective – the fish and animals, the plants and trees, and sadly, the crimes against nature that are all too real – poaching and the dumping of toxic chemicals.
Hall is a likeable enough guy, though we don’t really get a good look at what really makes him tick. He struggles with being a rookie South Carolina Refuge Enforcement Officer, and with not being able to do what he trained for in college, marine biology, but there really isn’t much else we are given in terms of character development. He seems emotionally flat and disconnected. An example of this can be found when Hall thinks that Gale has died. He seems utterly devoid of emotion. Granted, he and Gale only dated briefly, but I expected more in the way of grief and anger. At the beginning of the book, he finds an abandoned puppy and gives it a home. I guess that I expected the puppy to play an active role in the book, but he didn’t. Hall feeds him and lets him outside, but that’s about it.
From a character development standpoint, I think that we get a better of one of the secondary characters, Gale Pickens, as she struggles to stay alive while the captive of a career criminal. We get a good look at her inner strength and fortitude as she continually wonders what her captor has in store for her. She maintains a positive attitude, and continually plots her escape, refusing to resign herself to a horrible fate.
Since this is the first book in a series, perhaps the author plans on further developing the characters in later books. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Bottom line: This was a pretty good book that could have benefitted from some additional character development of the protagonist, Hall McCormick.