My review will follow the publisher’s blurb.

Epidemic investigator Dr. Zol Szabo hopes an extended cruise on the Indian Ocean with his girlfriend and his son will salve the wounds of the rough times they’ve been weathering at home. As they set sail coddled in unaccustomed luxury on the Coral Dynasty, things below deck are a little less sunny for the ship’s physician. Dr. Noah Ferguson reckons that bandaging the wounds of the crew’s seedy missteps is just part of a job that comes with a fair share of loneliness, but he’s increasingly frustrated that the most rewarding aspect of his practice must remain unspoken. When a mysterious microbe cuts a lethal swath through the crew’s quarters, Noah enlists a reluctant Zol, who must put his vacation on hold to investigate the illness before it consumes everyone on board. As the body count climbs, it becomes apparent that everybody carries a secret in international waters. Miles from land, the captain makes the rules, and anything inconvenient gets tossed overboard to disappear beneath the wake. – ECW PRESS


The true test of plunging into a series on book four is how well you can dive into it without feeling like a complete outsider. I leapt into Beneath the Wake and didn’t feel the least bit out of the loop. As far as the characters were concerned, I got to know them fairly quickly. Interestingly enough, what made me choose this book was Dr. Ross Pennie’s brief bio.

“As a specialist in infectious diseases worldwide, Dr. Ross Pennie has treated multifarious patients battling every germ imaginable, from drug-resistant malaria in Papua New Guinea to flesh-eating Streptococcus in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe. His first two Zol Szabo mysteries, Tainted and Tampered, won the Arts Hamilton Literary Award for fiction. The third, Up in Smoke, stirred the RCMP into investigating the trade in contraband tobacco in eastern Canada. He is the father of two adult children and lives with his wife in southern Ontario.” – ECW PRESS

Usually I’m pretty good at finding little clues left by the author to hint to a possible ending. I had a general idea how this would end but the clandestine goings-on and the refugee situation was where Pennie held my interest throughout the novel.

Overall this is what I enjoyed about Beneath The Wake :
The setting: being a medical mystery on a cruise ship in international waters seemed all to perfectly claustrophobic. I’m somewhat of a germ-a-phobe, I may think twice before ever embarking on a cruise. The view from Travis’s Blog (a friend of Zol’s son) was a nice addition to the story line. I also appreciated that there wasn’t over the top medical and scientific terminology (even though I have a background in bio-chemistry). Basically, anyone could follow along and not get frustrated by the medical jargon.

As for the story, I was expecting a little more tension, more excitement and buildup. Then I thought, this is not a thriller, it’s a mystery ! I also felt as if Zol’s character didn’t take center stage. I was expecting more of him I guess. Yet really, I have nothing to compare it with since I haven’t read the previous three novels. I’ll have to get my hands on them and then make a fair assessment.

Even if I did want Dr. Zol Szabo to be more in the forefront, Pennie made use of all the characters, each playing a roll throughout the novel. Going beyond the conundrum of the pathogen on board, Pennie tactfully brings dying with dignity into the spotlight. I really, really liked this angle.

I’m not an avid reader of medical mysteries but having read Beneath the Wake, I’m extremely curious about the previous novels in this series. Especially the one that motivated the Canadian RCMP to mount an investigation on Contraband tobacco. Overall, it was a nice escape.

Beneath the Wake by Ross Pennie
Published: May 2017 by ECW Press
ISBN: 9781770412767
Dimensions: 6 x 9 in.
Pages: 288

A copy of Beneath the Wake was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *