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Sunday 14 February 2016

‘Tenacity’ by J S Law

Published by Headline,
30 July 2015.
ISBN: 978 1 4722 2788 1

On the surface, the title of J S Law’s high-octane debut thriller refers to HMS Tenacity, the naval submarine around which the narrative revolves – but it also sums up a key quality of the protagonist. Lieutenant Danielle Lewis, known as Dan (sometimes Danny, but never Danni, especially not with a little heart over the i instead of a dot), is terrier-like in her determination to hold on through thick and thin until she gets at the truth.

She already has a reputation: four years ago she confronted a fellow naval officer who turned out to be a serial killer; no one else in the investigative team had sussed him out, but she did, and went after him. So when a young submariner commits suicide on board, only days after the brutal assault and murder of his wife, she finds she is in demand, despite only having returned to work days earlier after a long leave of absence.

Dan finds the dice loaded against her from the outset, and the pressure really piles on when the submarine is deployed and she is obliged to go out in it if the investigation is to continue.

By the end of this tense, often violent novel, I felt I knew far more about life on board a submarine than was strictly comfortable; I certainly have no desire to spend any time at all on one. The role and position of women in the Royal Navy also comes in for scrutiny. It must take courage and a certain kind of staying power to tough out the casual sexism, and Danielle Lewis’s already unpopular position as an investigator – a naval police officer – rapidly becomes almost untenable, especially when her own history is factored in.

J S Law paints the naval and submarine background with the effortless ease of the well-informed; he worked his way through the ranks as an engineer, and knows that world from the inside. The characters, both sympathetic and antagonistic, ring true, and the intimate, claustrophobic atmosphere comes across loud and clear.

Law also reveals a knack for constructing this kind of story, ramping up the jeopardy and tension to a point at which it appears all is lost for Dan, only hours before the final face-off.

The secret at the heart of the criminal behaviour isn’t even hinted at until the big reveal – or if it is, the clues were hidden so well that I didn’t suspect a thing. But I was gripped from the nail-biting opening chapter right through to the end, where enough loose ends are left to make a follow-up and a series distinctly possible.
Reviewer: Lynne Patrick

J.S. Law joined the Royal Navy in 1993 as an apprentice and went on to serve for twenty years, the majority of that time spent in the Submarine Service. He rose through the ranks, taking a commission as an engineering officer in 2001, and serving as a Senior Engineer and Nuclear Reactor Plant Supervisor, where his responsibilities ranged from the safety and operation of the submarine's nuclear power plant to hydraulic plants, fridges and toilets; it was the latter of these tasks that brought the majority of any pressure. His final years in service were spent training future submariners in his role of Senior Lecturer in Nuclear Reactor Engineering.
Having written short stories and novels throughout his naval career, James completed an MA in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University shortly before leaving the navy in 2013, completing his debut novel, Tenacity, shortly afterwards.
James lives in Hampshire with his wife, Elaine, and two children. He spends what spare time he has riding his bike around the South Downs and travelling to Edinburgh to watch Scotland play rugby at Murrayfield stadium.
Lynne Patrick has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen, and has enjoyed success with short stories, reviews and feature journalism, but never, alas, with a novel. She crossed to the dark side to become a publisher for a few years, and is proud to have launched several careers which are now burgeoning. She lives on the edge of rural Derbyshire in a house groaning with books, about half of them crime fiction.

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