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Fisher Of Men By Terry Cross: A Clean Suspense Thriller About the Ocean

Fisher of Men by Terry Cross is not a young adult novel per se. It is a California-surfing, deep-sea-diving suspense thriller evoking elements of the movie Jaws. As in a Hollywood movie, the two protagonists become romantically involved. The similarity ends there, however. The complete absence of sex, the faith-filled and healthy family backgrounds of the protagonists and the conversion process of the rational scientist male hero make this book perfect for Catholic young adult reading. There are no teens among the main characters in this book, but I highly recommend it as a clean suspense adventure with protagonists who exemplify high moral standards.

Fisher of Men is set on the California coast and the waters off San Clemente Island, a diver’s paradise. We are introduced to two marine biologists. Storm Hancock is an authority on great white sharks. Beautiful Hawaiian Terry Ho, of mixed Polynesian and Chinese ethnicity, is the Public Relations Ambassador for California’s newest Aquarium, CAL Ocean, USA. She hosts the TV show “Ask About the Ocean”. Terry is an unusual modern heroine. Instead of living in constant battle to establish herself as a professional woman, she seems relaxed in a workplace she loves. There is no trace of the cliche brazen and sarcastic Disney heroine in Terry. She has a loving relationship with both, her mother and father, trusting their advice and admiring them. While Terry is a Catholic who seeks to deepen her faith and become a better ‘fisher of men’, Storm has abandoned his family’s faith and has subscribed to the popular false dichotomy of science versus faith.

Storm and Terry are thrown together in a team formed to investigate the mysterious disappearances of divers in an area off the coast of San Clemente Island. Some of the victims are professional abalone divers, others are recreational scuba divers. The team’s investigation is complicated by several interest groups including a power hungry politician who never allows his conscience to interfere with his campaign goals. He plans to invite two Chinese diplomats to dive at the place of danger, a beautiful reef popular among sports divers. International intrigue culminates in the diplomatic party’s disastrous dive in spite of the investigation team’s warning. Storm and Terry both risk their lives to prevent the worst.

The breathtaking suspense is only one of the features making Fisher of Men one of the rare clean and morally sound books attractive to boys and young men. The author feeds his areas of expertise into the story, and we learn about such male interest pursuits as snorkel and scuba diving, the techniques of body surfing, the work of abalone divers, dangerous great white shark research in action, underwater acoustics and sonar technology. The descriptions of the underwater world are beautiful.

A couple of lovable supporting characters add to the beauty of the story. There is Terry Ho’s plump Hawaiian mom who runs Mama Ho’s Natural Store and feeds visitors with mango smoothies and divine wisdom. The investigation crew onboard the research vessel Nemo is in the capable hands Francis Armistead Smith, better known as Smitty. Rough on the outside but with a heart of gold, Smitty once was “one of those souls falling through the cracks.” He was saved by throwing in his lot with abalone diver Cap Hanson and becoming his “cook, dive tender, mechanic and only crew.” Smitty considers himself a poet. He is, in fact, a gourmet cook whose skills even impress the Nemo’s diplomat guests. Extremely loyal to his friends, Smitty has no tolerance for attacks against them.

The romance between Terry and Storm is quietly developing in the background, while the main plot of investigating the danger in the ocean unfolds. Some humorous situations arise from overeager matchmaking on the part of Mama Ho and Storm’s mother. Storm’s awkward shyness towards Terry also makes for some funny situations. Storm and Terry share their love of the ocean and of body surfing. This surfing technique without a board was totally new to me. His attraction to Terry leads Storm to reevaluate his attitude towards the Faith and initiates his conversion. Terry’s evangelization efforts are the one thing in this book I find a little clumsy. There is no physical contact between the lovers, not even in thought. Their dating is restricted to a few meals with family. Having gone through extreme danger together, the story ends with Storm proposing marriage. The romance in this story is refreshingly chaste but believable. In term of romance, the book is a modern marine version of a Louis L’Amour western.

Fisher of Men was published in 2009 and has not received the attention it deserves. A clean high adventure book about the ocean is a rare find, indeed. It is highly recommended for teen and adult reading. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any other books by the author.

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