Read an Exerpt of Backwash

The compact eight-seater charter plane banked steeply over the string of small islands nestled in the impossibly blue water of the Caribbean, losing height and bleeding off speed as it started its descent in preparation for landing. The Cessna 403, a twin piston propeller-driven craft ideal for the type of island-hopping service that operated throughout the Caribbean, had made the trip from the mainland to the Virgin Islands in a little over thirty minutes and was now approaching the runway at Taylor's Bay on the leeward side of the nine square-mile island of Virgin Gorda.

Inside the modestly sized but well-appointed cabin of the aircraft, only two of the four passengers showed any interest in the fact that they were about to land, and then for very different reasons; one, because he loved flying, the other, because he hated it and found the prospect of landing in a small plane on a tiny island airstrip more than a little disturbing. He would have been surprised to find that the phlegmatic Southerner in the neighbouring seat was, in fact, thinking along the same lines. The difference being that the other man's apprehension stemmed from the fact that he, Ezra Standish, had been flying aircraft since the age of 15 and unless he was flying in a commercial jetliner it was natural for him to slip into the role of the quintessential back-seat pilot. The remaining two passengers seemed either oblivious or indifferent to the fact that they were within minutes of landing. In fact one was sleeping and the other was, atypically, engrossed in a book, and neither seemed inclined to surface before it was absolutely necessary.

Meanwhile Ezra stared thoughtfully out of the window at the island, thrusting ruggedly out of the Caribbean and now looming larger, coming sharply into focus as the Cessna dived out of the sky like some predatory bird with its target in sight, to land a few minutes later on the short runway with a soft jarring thud that confirmed they had touched solid earth once more. As the plane rapidly used up the frighteningly short runway, Ezra felt the pressure of sudden, intense, deceleration and he turned to glance at the man sitting on his left. Tanner's relief at landing was etched clearly on his face and the Southerner silently sympathised with the Texan. Flying was probably the one thing that unnerved Vin and not because he was afraid, but because as soon as he was off the ground he suffered the inconvenient and often embarrassing agonies of air sickness. On this second leg he had been lucky but the flight from Boston to Puerto Rico had been something of a nightmare and as a result he had been sitting, tight-lipped and morose, all the way from San Juan. Ezra had not dared ask but he wondered if Vin got sea-sick too, because if he did it was definitely going to be a very long week.