The Fletchers are an English family living in expatriate comfort in Singapore in 2002 when a recession threatens their lifestyle. Geophysicist Michael and his son, Alex, are drawn into a marine survey to locate the Siren, an East Indiaman, sunk in a tempest in the Sulu Sea in 1764. Onboard, a rich cargo of 250,000 cases of Ming Dynasty porcelain lies buried on the seabed. A single plate recovered by a diver sets in motion the frantic search by Michael’s company, PanAsia Services, in a race against a rival team led by Tong, a ruthless Clan leader and collector of antique porcelain. Michael’s wife, Julie is worried as the Sulu Sea is the hunting ground of local pirate gangs and the brutal Abu Sayyaf terrorist group led by Khadaffy Janjalani. The remote area where the shipwreck lies buried is close to terrorist jungle camps on Basilan Island.
Can Michael’s team locate the precious cargo before they are attacked? Can we be sure Julie wants her husband back if he is held hostage?
This fast-paced novel is located in many colourful locations in SE Asia including Singapore, Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi Island. The struggle for an independent Muslim Mindanao by Abu Sayyaf is one of continuing conflict.
A well-researched novel based on the Author’s intimate knowledge of the region.
It has attracted 5 star reviews on Amazon since release in June.
Targeted Age Group:: 16+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Personal experience whilst working as a marine geophysicist in many high risk countries in Western Africa, Middle East and Asia. I was onboard the Askelad offshore Nigeria when she was attacked by pirates and two hostages taken. In my book the survey area is set in the Sulu Sea and I know this area well from similar expeditions in the past.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
My characters are imaginary, but based on an assemblage of character traits from many people I have met.
Peter and Margery sighed with relief after the Fletchers had left. It was a novel experience to wander through the empty rooms and corridors. Apart from the man at the front gate, the embassy was as quiet as a grand hotel out-of-season. They walked side by side, their feet echoing in unison.
‘That didn’t go too well,’ conceded Peter, as he accepted a cup of tea from Margery. Cheekily they had taken over the old man’s office, enjoying possession, knowing that none of the staff was likely to turn up on a Sunday. The air conditioning was off, but Margery helped Peter to remove his jacket.
‘Thanks, Margery. It’s hot in here.’
‘I thought you handled things very well. A tough position with lots of stress. And I am sure the press conference was a nightmare!’
‘It was. I wanted to keep you away from that circus.’
‘The families don’t understand that we have to be uncompromising in these situations. It is in their best interests!’
‘How right you are, Margery. The official line is no deal. Discrete dealings can proceed. That is the first time I can remember a wife saying don’t pay the ransom.’
‘What! She said that?’
‘But that’s what you wanted!’
‘Margery, the official line is one of no negotiation but the reality is we pay a ransom. If you adopt a rigorous no pay policy like the Russians, then you are condemning the hostage to death.’
‘I am sure you are taking her too literally. I think she was just backing up the official line. Well, enough talk of work!’
Margery daringly perched on the High Commissioner’s desk. From his lower vantage point in a Regency upholstered chair, Peter admired her elegant long legs. She relaxed against the edge of the desk facing him, her legs crossed to raise her patented leather black stiletto shoes into view. As the tight shoes were hurting, she rubbed a finger across the arch and bridge of her foot.
‘Sorry, it’s agony. Do you mind?’
She slipped off her shoes. They fell with a thud.
Getting more comfortable, she lent backwards, and her hand dislodged a pen, which crashed to the floor. Margery laughed as she bent over to retrieve it, flashing those nice legs and a shapely backside peeping out of black lace lingerie. She spun back onto the desk. It was uncluttered apart from pictures of the High Commissioner’s wife and his dog, Mountbatten. As if reading her thoughts, Peter stood up and removed the framed photos to a side table, turning them away to face the wall.
‘The old man keeps a good malt whisky.’ He twisted the cork with an audible squeak from a bottle of 21-year-old Glenfarclas Glenlivet. ‘I am sure he wouldn’t mind us having a taster.’
‘Really, Peter, I never knew you could be so reckless!’
Peter filled two generous tumblers of neat malt. He sunk into the plush leather chair with his whisky and watched Margery as she relaxed full length across the desk and then turned, with her chin supported by her hand.
‘Bottoms up.’ She raised her glass and took a large gulp, clumsily spilling a few drops over the immaculate, polished table. Surprised, she ran a finger over the spillage and sucked her finger dry. For greater comfort on the hard surface, she bent one leg, leaving it swaying in the air, and stretched out the other so her toes could reach his arm.
‘You look reckless yourself spread out on the High Commissioner’s desk.’
Peter drained his whisky.
‘Peter,’ she purred, ‘I have given up my Sunday to debrief this lad rescued from pirates. I’m sorry you have had all the hard work and I feel I have done nothing.’
‘No, you were useful in getting the young man to relax. It was my fault for not following up to extract more information from him. You put him at ease.’
‘That’s what I’m good at—putting people at ease. Your resolve dealing with those poor people was so impressive. But, as you say, sometimes a firm hand is the best approach.’
Peter was sweating in the stuffy atmosphere. ‘It’s boiling in here,’ he wiped his forehead with a handkerchief.
‘Yes. You need some fresh air and you have had a tense time.’ She slipped off the desk and hoisted him out of his chair to stand face-to-face. He smelt and then tasted a wave of malt whisky as their mouths merged and her fingers released the buckle of his brown leather belt. Carefully she extracted the strap, twisting it in fascination before discarding it on the desktop behind her. Her graceful actions mesmerised Peter. He stared ahead at the disapproving picture of the Queen staring down from the wall. Margery followed his gaze.
‘Don’t worry about her,’ she reassured him, with a laugh. ‘Anyhow, there are no security cameras in here.’
Richard Sorapure is a marine geologist and geophysicist who has worked all over the world, mainly on short-term projects for civil engineering, government and oil and gas companies. From 1983 to 1994, he was based in Singapore where four of his five children were born. During this time most of his projects were in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, with occasional forays further afield to India, the Middle East , Taiwan, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand.
‘Hostage to Freedom: The Search for the Siren’ is Richard’s first published novel, released in June 2021. It took 10 years to complete and is based on his experiences in Singapore and the Philippines and, with artistic licence, it has weaved in a dramatic attack on his survey vessel, MV Askelad, offshore Nigeria by an armed gang of twenty pirates. Two of the survey team were taken hostage. Nowadays he is happy to concentrate on writing a second novel and concentrating on gardening back home in his home in Somerset.
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