"A Deadly Exchange"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark MAY 11, 2001)
"Then she heard it. The sound was muffled, but she heard something over the wind and waves. Footsteps. Topside. The fiberglass cabin creaked with each footfall. She cringed and held onto the gun butt with both hands. She thought she heard a voice carried on the wind. It sounded almost like a sigh. Her teeth began to chatter. Holding the gun rigidly in front of her, she stared into darkness."
After seven years, Alexandra and Matt Spencer finally own their Pearson 323, Amani. They made their dream affordable, by putting $10,000 down on the sailboat and then let a yacht charter service maintain, insure and send payments to the manufacturer from the rental proceeds. Although worn from the constant use, Amani was finally theirs free and clear of all liabilities. Well almost.
The day that Amani is taken out of charter and turned over to them, the Spencer's head out for a shake down cruise and long awaited vacation through the Bahamas Islands. Little do they know that bags of cocaine are sealed in the hanging locker. The duo who did the job were supposed to have fiberglassed the goods on a sister ship called Amour, but have made a careless mistake. Though Matt comments on the fiberglass odor, neither of them see where any repairs were made and initially attribute it to something the Charter company conveniently omitted from their records.
Needless to say, Alexandra and Matt are not alone on this maiden voyage. The DEA is keeping a watch on the drug dealers and the drug dealers are following Amani intent on getting back their cocaine. So despite their boat's Swahili name, Amani's crew will have no peace this trip. In fact, it gets outright dangerous, as in, life threatening before all is said and done.
Because of the suspicious behavior of the two Bahamians (the ones who 'glassed in the cocaine), Matt ends up finding the drugs on board. Worried that the drug dealers might kill them to get the drugs back, Matt and Alex devise a plan to hide the bags on the island, thus hoping to preserve their own lives while letting these Bahamians have their drugs. But, the plan goes awry and Alex is abducted. Now, Matt must really try to exchange the drugs for Alex's life. But is he cunning enough to outwit the ruthless drug lords? Now that he's in his late forties, how will this ex-POW handle himself under these dangerous circumstances? And will guileless Alex survive her captivity?
Having sailed the Bahamas with her husband, Stafford gives an accurate description of the peaceful aspects of the cruising experience then draws us into the hidden dangers that might happen to anyone of us in these beautiful, but nearly lawless, remote islands. I read A Deadly Exchange twice before writing this review. The first read through, I was so anxious that I nearly missed the scenery. As I read through again, I slowed down enough to be able to appreciate the novel for its location and the author's expert descriptions. But I tell you, even knowing the outcome, I had to control another intense page turning session.
In spite of the frightening plot, this novel has awoken in me fifteen year old memories of my one sail through the Bahamas. If I quit my job in the next few months, I'll blame it on A Deadly Exchange rekindling a vivid desire to cruise again. Even the danger is alluring, for I can think of no other time that I felt the simultaneous freedom and the fear as anchoring off an aloof and uninhabited island, with a dark helicopter hovering above. I can so see how Stafford arrived at her plot, but to her credit she brings it to life, sustaining the momentum and plot until the very end.
I recommend Deadly Exchange as the perfect read whether on vacation, soaking up rays in the backyard or cuddling up under a blanket in the cold winter months. Wherever you are physically, this novel will whisk you away.
- Amazon reader rating: from 35 reviews
(back to top)
Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- A Deadly Exchange (January 2001)
- Death Divided by Two
(back to top)
- Booklore review of A Deadly Exchange
- Interrogation Report review of A Deadly Exchange
- BrothersJudd.com review of A Deadly Exchange
(back to top)
About the Author:
Sheryl Jane Stafford and her husband, an ex-POW Commander, sailed from the Florida Panhandle to the Bahamas and Bimini seven times. It was during one of these journeys that she conceived of the novel A Deadly Exchange.
Stafford placed first place in the 1994 West Florida Literary Short Story Contest. She has published work in Emerald Coast Review, Volumes V, VI, VII. Her short story "Rest Stop" was selected as one of top 100 (out of 13,000 entries) in mainstream/genre category in 1995 Writer’s Digest National Writing Competition. And she received Honorable Mention for one of her short stories in the 1999 South Florida National Writer’s Association Short Fiction Contest. She has written three novels, this is the first one in print. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of West Florida and lives in Cantonment, Florida.