by Michael Rudolph
Ballantine Books, 2016
A chartered sportfisherman founders off the coast of Puerto Rico. Two people are on board. A nearby yacht locates debris and some blood-stained clothing. There is no sign of the occupants.
So begins Noble Chase, a debut novel that has less to do with bluewater voyaging than with a convoluted tale of international banking, bearer bonds, phony passports, money laundering on a prodigious scale and a fortune in missing cash.
Author Michael Rudolph is an occasional sailor and retired New York lawyer. He leads his readers on a not-so-noble jaunt from an upscale New York restaurant to an island playground in the Lesser Antilles to a boating adventure that charts a rhumb-line course in the general direction of Aruba and Panama.
The chief player in this prolix tale of deception and intrigue is Beth Swahn, a blond, beautiful young attorney. She’s on a mission to save her law firm from a malpractice claim and possible bankruptcy. The supporting cast includes her stepfather, Max, a yachtsman and legal wizard; a Chinese conglomerate’s U.S. divisional head and his waspish girlfriend; a shady crowd of Taiwanese financial manipulators; and a Persian cat tucked into a tailored life preserver.
Not to give too much away, the novel culminates in a dramatic but improbable Caribbean yacht chase. Bound west from Antigua, this pursuit features a good guy’s boat (with heroine Beth sailing as crew), an obligatory hurricane and a bad guy’s ketch rerigged as a sloop to throw shoreside cops off the scent.
Noble Chase is a good airport read. One thing offshore sailors might find missing from the book is that sense of profound humility — of a mindset stripped of all pretense — an author must have when writing about the imponderable force we call the sea.