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In the failed East African state of Somalia, piracy has become a dominant factor in the economy. Bordering one of the world's busiest waterways—with steady traffic coming and going through the Suez Canal—Somalia's north shore, once famed as the “Incense Coast,” provides a dependable parade of suitable victims. Maritime nations have powerful naval contingents in the region; but, lacking legal justification for preemptive action, they are paralyzed and ineffective.

News media are hungry for stories and photographs of pirates, and Jitka Malecek, a freelance photographer with prior experience in East Africa, has a plan for obtaining them. Somalia acts as a magnet for her, drawing the aggressive young photographer inexorably into the action.

Commander Vance Morrisette of the U.S. Navy, a former SEAL, has worked in the region before. Morrisette is given a covert assignment to join a civilian security firm, providing protection against piracy. These contractors are constrained to employ nonlethal techniques against heavily armed pirates who have no such restrictions. Chafing under rules of engagement that handcuff law-abiding nations, Morrisette contemplates more violent alternatives. When Jitka Malecek disappears into lawless Somalia, he must take matters into his own hands and track her down before her time and luck run out.

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