Josh Thurlow was first introduced as a Coast Guard Lieutenant in the bestselling wartime novel THE KEEPER'S SON. There, with the assistance of his rather unusual but seaworthy hometown crew, he helped fend off German U-boats from North Carolina's outer banks during the opening days of World War II.
It is later in the war now, and Commander Josh Thurlow and his boys are seeing action in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific on special assignment under direct orders from Admiral Halsey. When an Ambassador's son, war hero Marine Lt. David Armistead, disappears under suspicious circumstances, Josh and his men are sent on a mission deep into Japanese territory to find him, assess the circumstances of his disappearance, and take appropriate action. The fact that the Lieutenant is a cousin of President Franklin D. Roosevelt doesn't deter Josh from fulfilling his duty as he sees it.
Josh needs a smaller craft that will carry him and his crew into the jungle rivers on the mission. He encounters a PT boat captain named Shafty, who is recuperating from injuries suffered when his boat is run over by a Japanese destroyer. Shafty, also known as John F. Kennedy, is awaiting court martial in a military recuperation camp on one of the Solomon Islands, when Josh enlists his help in acquiring a PT boat from the Navy. Lt. Kennedy plays poker with a military procurement officer named Nick to win a boat.
Homer Hickam uses liberal license to bring together real-life characters who will one day become president, as Nick is Richard M. Nixon. A third at the poker table is a young journalist taking notes on the war by the name of Jim Michener. Whether these three men ever met, let alone played poker, in the Solomon's is a bit of conjecture, but because they all served at about the same time in the region, who's to say differently? David Roosevelt Armistead is a real Marine officer who disappeared during the war under the circumstances first described in the novel. Many nonfiction and fictional accounts of his apparent desertion have been chronicled, and this is perhaps the most fanciful of them all but may be closer to the truth than we might imagine.
Romance blossoms between Josh and a fierce Tonganese warrior maiden when he is separated from his crew and meets a headhunting tribal chief who holds one of the islands. Kennedy must continue Josh's mission and search for Josh. Both men wage fierce battle scenes as the Japanese bomb and plunder this remote tropical paradise.
THE AMBASSADOR'S SON is rich with authentic characters and laced with occasional humor as Hickam spins yet another tale of the war in the South Pacific.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on May 2, 2006