Is it every sailor’s dream to rescue a mermaid, a topless lady in distress? What could be better? How about a somewhat modern slant on the mermaid theme…say, a mermaid who can get around on two good legs and who just happens to know how to hand, reef, and steer? Too good to be true? Perhaps. Imagine she comes aboard with a bushel-load of personal baggage she’s keeping secret and is stalked by bad guys who just might kill anyone who happens to be aboard?

Author Dick Elam captures readers’ attention from the start, when Maggie Adelaide Moore, fleeing her tormentors, swims to the anchored boat of Herschel Barstow. What do you say to a semi-naked lady?

Hershel’s sentimental cruise on his former sailboat, now in charter, was meant to be a time of reflection in which he would spread the ashes of his deceased wife. When they weren’t working as CIA operatives, he and his wife had enjoyed their time on the Anne Bonny, a sailboat named for a well-known female pirate. But now the identity and motivation of his new crewmember, who arrived dripping wet in her cutoff jeans, was in doubt. Was she another female pirate or on the right side of the law? Which of her stories were lies and which were the truth?

There are enough twists and turns in this book that you can’t be sure. Suffice it to say that it’s a good thing Hershel has his CIA training and the ongoing friendship of his former trainer, who is now retired. The two are determined to learn Maggie’s secrets. But Hershel may die trying as he and Maggie sail the Carolina waterways to return the Anne Bonny to the charter company…always just a few strong strokes of a mermaid’s tale ahead of the bad guys.

This is Dick Elam’s first in what may become a series. He clearly is a sailor who knows good old boats. He doesn’t spend a lot of time explaining to the non-yachtsman among his readers what this is or what that means. A few lubberly expressions such as “Over and out” as a signoff on the VHF radio, and “bumpers” for fenders, made me think he had a bit too much “help” from non-sailor early readers or editors, because all the rest rings true and there is the occasional mention of “lines and fenders.” If you can overlook those trifles, you just might enjoy sailing along in the Anne Bonny’s wake, just so long as you are safely in your armchair and can’t feel the bad guys’ breath on the back of your neck.

Anne Bonny’s Wake by Dick Elam (Brown Books Publishing Group, 2016; 232 pages)