Dana Stabenow

"Blindfold Game"

(Reviewed by Mary Whipple MAY 1, 2006)

"In this case there is enough circumstantial evidence to warrant concern.  The intelligence accumulated about North Koreans trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan.  Recovery of blueprints for such a [dirty] bomb from the al-Quaida caves.  The report of the sale of enough cesium-137 to build such a bomb.  Much more than necessary, actually…."

Blindfold Game by Dana Stabenow

A terrorist bombing in Pattaya Beach, Thailand, in October, 2004, is the prelude to this dramatic and exciting sea chase, as Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Sara Lange finds herself engaged in much more dangerous activity than patrolling the Maritime Boundary Line between the US and Russia.  Two brothers, known only as Smith and Jones, from Korea, have joined a Singaporean pirate named Mr. Noortman, and a Chinese pirate named Fang and have cold-bloodedly bombed Pattaya Beach as a dress rehearsal for even bigger destruction.  These conspirators have succeeded in obtaining cesium-137, usually used for radiation treatments in hospitals, and they plan to make a "dirty bomb" from it, firing it from a container ship into Anchorage, Alaska, with its population of 250,000 people.

Lt. Cmdr. Sara Lange, who grew up in Alaska and knows the area well, is married to Hugh Rincon, a high-ranking official in the Directorate of Intelligence (CIA), though their separate careers keep them far apart for most of the year.  Sara is on duty, dealing with Russian incursions into US waters for fishing, a Greenpeace vessel which plans, on its own, to drive the Russians from the fishing sanctuary, and a mounting storm which soon results in twenty-foot seas.  Then she learns from Hugh that a major terrorist attack is planned on Alaska and that a "dirty bomb" will be aboard a ship near her in the Bering Sea.  As the narrative alternates between the Sojourner Truth, the Coast Guard cutter to which Sara is assigned, and the vessel in which the four terrorists and their small army are hiding, a dramatic chess game unfolds, just as the fierce winter storm develops to hurricane force.

Author Dana Stabenow, who spent sixteen days aboard a Coast Guard cutter in the Bering Sea collecting information, fills this novel with specific details about Coast Guard life, giving it a verisimilitude which makes the action, behavior of the crew, and the dialogue come alive.  Her insights into the problems of piracy, illegal arms sales, the impossibility of checking every container on every ship, the deliberate flouting of the  Maritime Boundary Line by Russian fishing trawlers, and the complications created by well-meaning groups such as Greenpeace, give depth and high drama to the action as it unfolds.

With broader characterization than one usually finds in an action thriller, the novel also provides personal information about Sara Lange, Hugh Rincon, their friend Kyle Chase of the FBI and his family, and the terrorists themselves, personalizing terrorism and the fight against it by forces within the US government.  Filled with excitement as the storm, the terrorists, and the Coast Guard all come together, the novel provides much to ponder about our vulnerability to increasingly militant terrorist cells.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 23 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Blindfold Game at author's website

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Kate Shugak Series:

Liam Campbell Series:

Star Sevensdotter Series:

Stand-alone Thriller:


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Dana StabenowDana Stabenow was born in Anchorage, Alaska in 1952 and was raised on a 75-foot fish tender in the Gulf of Alaska. She graduated fro Seldovia High School in 1969 and received a B.A. in journalism from the University of Alaska in 1973. She worked her way through college as an egg grader, bookkeeper and expediter for Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods.

After college she worked for a summer and took her savings on a four-month backpacking trip to Europe. When she came back, the construction had begun on the TransAlaska Pipeline and she made a lot of cash.

But when she turned 30, she enrolled in the UAA's MFA program and graduated in 1985. She sold her first book in 1990, which hit the market with a thud. Her second novel (and the first in the Kate Shugak series, won the 1993 Edgar Award.

She lives in Anchorage, Alaska.

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