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Sail by James Patterson Book Review/Summary

Updated on August 27, 2011

Book Cover

Book Cover
Book Cover

Summary & Response


                Katherine, Mark, Carrie and Ernie Dunne are a family that is less than perfect. To help mend some issues that they have, they decided to take a three month long boating expedition. However what they do not realize is that their boating trip is being sabotaged by someone they would never suspect, their step-father. As they proceed to leave the marina and prepare for a wonderful vacation and boating trip, the immediately experience problems. The cabin of their boat floods due to a sabotaged engine cooling system which nearly sinks the boat, and to top that off when Carrie is left alone on deck she makes an attempt at her own life. Once they are able to over-come this difficult situation, they experience even more problems. A huge storm hits, leaving the boat in a deplorable condition, and the deck is described as the condition of the war ridden country of Iraq. They pull through this too, however even more disastrous situations are about to come their way. As their uncle Jake playfully tosses the kids off the boat for a swim, the boat is destroyed by an explosion. All of the kids are spared from the explosion because their uncle had tossed them off the ship, but he remained onboard and took the full force of the explosion. By some miracle he is able to survive but is burned over his entire body and is left unconscious. He dies shortly thereafter. Katherine is deeply saddened by the loss of Jake, because secretly, he is the father of Ernie, her youngest child. Katherine and her children persevere throughout these ordeals and manage to find the emergency box from the boat. Inside they find a raft, rations, and a flare gun. These will come in use more quickly than they would have hopped. Carrie uses the flare gun to scare off a shark that is hoping to feed on them. They inflate the raft and use it to eventually make their way to a deserted island. The food is what helps keep them alive. Once they make their way to an island, they attempt to explore it but find it to be deserted. Ernie finds a coke bottle which he places a note written on a piece of his shirt into. This note, which is laughed at by his siblings will be what actually saves them. The coke bottle is swallowed by a large tuna, which is then caught by a group of fishermen. When they are weighing the fish, the bottle falls out and they find the note. This is what prompts the coast guard and Peter Carlyle to resume their search for them. Unfortunately, Peter Carlyle is the one that finds them first because the rigged tracking device he put on their boat gave the coast guard the wrong location, so he knows where they actually are. He flies a plane down in search of them and finds them on a deserted island. He flies right towards them and gets their hopes up that they may finally be rescued, but he has other plans in mind. He lands his plane on the other side of the island and under the cover of night sneaks over to their location on the island. He spies their campfire and seems them sound asleep by it. It takes aim with his gun and is about to shoot Katherine when he is jumped by Mark from the bushes. He had been keeping watch because previously on the island they were attacked by a large snake and they wanted to be safe. They are brought back to New York where Peter Carlyle undergoes trial for the attempted murder of his family in order to gain their massive fortune. Somehow, being the amazing liar and lawyer that he is, he is found not guilty. But this does not prevent justice from being served, one way or another. Devoux makes his way to Carlyle’s hotel room where he finds Carlyle and Bailey. He demands his fair share of the money Carlyle won in the trial. Somehow Carlyle is able to wrestle the gun away from Devoux and Bailey picks it up and points it at both of them demanding that neither move. She shoots Carlyle and we discover that Bailey is actually working with Devoux. Devoux completes the wire transaction of the money to his bank account, and then he shoots Bailey to tie up any loose ends. He takes Carlyle’s watch and flies off to Paris to spend his fortune of sixteen million dollars. However, during a time when Carlyle was in the hospital, a special agent was able to slip a tracking device onto Carlyle’s watch because she had been suspicious of him the whole time. This was used to track down Devoux. When she confronts him on the streets of Paris, she points her gun at him and demands he doesn’t move. When he does, she shoots him dead.


Sail, written by James Patterson and Howard Roughan, is an exciting novel full of suspense and action, and a page turner for readers of all types. This is the last novel written by James Patterson before his death, and it does not disappoint. It is great novel because it has an interesting cast of characters that are very involved throughout the book, because it features exotic places that excite the reader’s imagination and because it moves quickly and has very ‘explosive’ scenes throughout the story.

                First, Sail is a great novel because it has an interesting cast of characters that are very involved throughout the book. The main character, Dr. Katherine Dunne, is a mother of three. Her children, Carrie, Mark, and Ernie are constantly fighting, “The mouths on these kids were something awful. Maybe this trip was just what they needed.” (Patterson, Roughan 22) This thought is coming from Jake, and he hopes that this trip can help bring his sister-in-law’s family together. Carrie, an eighteen year old freshman at Yale, is bulimic and fighting serious depression. Her brother, Mark, is a sixteen year old sophomore at Deerfield Academy, and is known as the resident stoner, “Mark’s serial pot-smoking is one thing. But a suicidal daughter?” (55) Katherine feels like she has a dysfunctional family because of the problems her two oldest children experience. The youngest of the group, Ernie Dunne, is only ten. But what he lacks for in experience he makes up for in intelligence. Her husband, Stuart, died before the novel begins, in a scuba diving accident off of their boat, the Family Dunne. Stuart’s brother, Katherine’s brother-in-law, Jake is also a prominent character in the novel. He is a forty-four year old Dartmouth drop-out. He decided to sail the world instead of chase a fortune on Wall Street like his brother Stuart. Katherine’s new husband is the famous lawyer, Peter Carlyle. He plays the part of an honest loving husband until the reader discovers that he is only after the fortune left to Katherine by her late husband Stuart, which is close to or over one hundred million dollars. There are also a large cast of smaller characters, including Bailey, the woman Peter is cheating on Katherine with throughout most of the novel, and Devoux, the man hired by Peter to kill his wife and step children.

Second, this is a great book because of the exotic locations it features. The story mainly takes place in New York City and the surrounding area, but because of the ease of transportation nowadays, the characters locations shift from place to place quite frequently, “…a noontime fog settled over the Labrador Island Marina in exclusive and very tony Newport, Rhode Island.” (19) Rhode Island is very close geographically to New York, and this is the location of the Marina where they keep their boat. Once Katherine, Mark, Carrie, and Ernie depart for their sailing expedition with their uncle Jake for a couple months, their side of the story shifts to the decks and cabins of the their boat, The Family Dunne. In the last chapters of the book, it would appear Devoux had escaped with the money and would be living large over-seas, “The late afternoon sun was beginning to dip from the sky, its light engulfing the Arc de Triomphe with a majestic orange glow. God, he loved Paris.” (302) The man who had been hired by Peter Carlyle to murder his family had turned the gun on Peter, and taken the money he had won in the lawsuit and ran with it, all the way to Paris.

                Third, this is a great novel because it moves quickly and it has very explosive scenes throughout the story. As soon as the book starts the adventure and excitement ensues. Carrie, as you may remember as the suicidal teenage daughter of Katherine. As soon as they depart from the Marina, she makes an attempt at taking her own life. “… Jake points out to sea and screams at the top of his lungs, ‘Man overboard!’” (35) Carrie had jumped ship and attempted to drown herself. Katherine knows that her daughter was a superb swimmer, and would be able to treat water for hours if she wanted too, but the way she didn’t even attempt to keep her head out of the water immediately alerted both Jake and Katherine that this was not an accident. It appeared up until this point that the only way someone on this ship would be dying would be by their own hands, “In the blink of an eye The Family Dunne exploded, the entire boat disappearing within a massive orange fireball” (105) Luckily all aboard the Family Dunne had decided to take a swim just before the explosion that destroyed their ship, but they had the problem of not having a boat and being stuck in the middle of the ocean. This unexpected explosion turns this story from a somewhat happy sailing expedition into a survival story that keeps the reader turning the pages.

                In conclusion, this is a great action adventure type novel for readers of any type. It is a great book because the intricate and involved characters attach the reader to the story, because the interesting places allow the reader to explore the world with their imagination and because the quick pace of the story and the explosive events keep the reader turning the pages.


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    • profile image

      somethign 5 years ago

      Theres a lot of sex in this book. Very descripting too, nasty!

    • profile image

      jessy 6 years ago

      What happens to the dunne family at the end of the book?

    • profile image

      Name 6 years ago

      What is the theme of sail by james patterson?

    • schwazice profile image

      Ben S. 6 years ago from United States

      I wrote this several years ago, I'll have to go back and look. My english professor at the time may have told me that, but I think you're right. Thanks for reading!

    • profile image

      Jennie Bee 6 years ago

      In the reaction section the author of this review states that this is the last book James Patterson wrote before he died, I've searched the internet, James Patterson is still alive. Where did you get that information?

    • daviddwarren22 profile image

      daviddwarren22 6 years ago

      Well-written hub!

    • profile image

      Markus 6 years ago

      Perfect beach read!!! i recommend reading it in summer holidays

    • profile image

      Ashley 7 years ago

      i loved this book it was really good! i couldn't stop reading it!!

    • profile image

      sam 7 years ago

      I don't think james patterson is dead

    • profile image

      Jeremy 7 years ago

      Thanks for the review. I'm going to add this to my list.

    • profile image

      Jeremy 7 years ago

      Thanks for the review. I'm going to add this to my list.


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