Clyde Ford’s nautical mystery novel, “Precious Cargo,” takes the reader on a journey into the Inside Passage, the waterway between western Canada-southern Alaska and a series of islands.
But the voyage involves more than sailing along the jagged coast with its many islands and straits. Ford also takes the reader into the mind of his protagonist, private detective Charlie Noble. Noble deals with inner conflicts, such as the grief from the death of his wife, while trying to navigate through the difficult waters of a new relationship. He also has issues with his new profession after seeing his promising career as a Coast Guard officer ruined because he refused to doctor a report.
Noble is talked into solving a mystery involving the corpse of a woman snagged by a boat anchor in the water near the San Juan islands. The horrified couple who discovered the corpse are obsessed with the tragedy because their daughter mysteriously disappeared many years before.
With the help of Raven, an enigmatic Native American diver, Noble brings the corpses of more women to the surface. The plot involves human trafficking and is uncomplicated. Ford’s strength is in his character development and vivid descriptions of the beauty and perils of the Inside Passage.
Ford, a retired chiropractor and psychotherapist, lives in Bellingham, Wash., and sails the waters he writes about in his trawler, the “Mystic Voyager.” In an interview in the nautical magazine “Sea,” Ford says he wants to “reinvigorate” the genre of books about mysteries of the deep made famous by such authors as Herman Melville, Robert Louis Stephenson and Joseph Conrad. The first book in the series, “Red Herring,” was released in 2005 and a third book is planned.