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High Water - Douglas Reeman

This tale is a departure from the usual fare of derring-do, perils and thrills on the high seas in wartime that is the hallmark of Douglas Reeman's novels. It is centered around Philip Vivian, a World War II veteran of the Royal Navy whose love and affinity for the sea has made it difficult for him to wholly adjust to living under the strictures of life in late 1950s postwar Britain. As a way of making a living, he had been taking tourists on seasonal trips along the shore and out at sea in his motor yacht, the Seafox. But this in itself is not enough to stave off the looming prospect of having to sell his beloved Seafox and face bankruptcy. Vivian leaves Torquay (where Seafox is moored) and goes to the R.N.V.R. Club in London --- of which he is a paying member --- and chances upon an old wartime comrade, Feliz Lang, whom Fortune has clearly smiled upon. He puts to Vivian "a profitable --- if legally dubious --- proposition" to carry out a series of smuggling jobs (involving the shipment of foreign currency from the travel agency in which Lang has a major interest) across the Channel to France. Just a couple of smuggling jobs and Vivian's debts would be paid in full. A merry adventure, no less. Or so it seemed at face value. For there is much more to Felix Lang and his associates at the travel agency for which he has worked for many years than meets the eye. Consequently, Vivian "finds himself trapped in a treacherous web of violence and crime, dangerously torn between his stubborn sense of past loyalties and his duty to a society he has always despised."

For any reader in search of a understated thriller that packs a punch, "High Water" fits the bill handsomely.