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White Cargo is three quarters of a really good book that unfortunately descends into pedestrian predictability in the waning chapters. Stuart Woods is a good story teller with a grasp of detail that comes only with someone who has dedicated themselves to serious research on their topics of interest. In this particular case the topics of interest are sailing (a Woods standard), flying and law enforcement. When bundled together with beautiful women, the Caribbean sea and the Columbian landscape you have the recipe for a fast paced story and Woods does not disappoint.
There is a cleverness to the way the story starts that leads the reader down a short path with a very sudden dead end. The story set up is flawless, unexpected and very well executed. There is nothing misleading in any aspect of the opening pages of the book everything Wendell Catledge sees and does is exactly what the reader gets to see. There is absolutely nothing hidden from us so when the story takes a sudden detour it is satisfying and surprising.
Getting into the meat of the story and moving it forward though has a few awkward moments and occasionally stretch the bounds of a readers willing suspension of disbelief. There are things which we will believe and not believe and one of the first indications that the wheels are eventually going to come off of this story is the way in which some characters are simply disposed of once they have served their purpose. A good writer should have a believable exit strategy for temporary characters that is something short of killing them off whenever they prove inconvenient.
Three quarters of a good book is okay for a beach read or a vacation read but it is not really worth the investment to add to your own library. When the mystery/adventure story gets to the closing chapters the cliches and predictable outcomes will only annoy fans of either genre. White Cargo could have been a much better book than it turned out to be.