instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

On Hurricane Island

As a major hurricane heads for New England, math professor Gandalf Cohen is picked up at JFK Airport en route to an academic conference. She is hooded and cuffed by federal agents and flown in a small plane to a secret detention center on an island off the coast of Maine. Austin Coombs, a young local resident, is newly hired as a civilian guard and assigned to Gandalf. She needs the job, but is uneasy about working at the facility. Raised by her grandparents on a nearby island, Austin has grown up with stories of the troubles on Hurricane Island and has always been fascinated by the place.

FBI special agent in charge Henry Ames is plagued by doubts and heartburn. He is annoyed that his bosses haven’t told him anything about the new detainee except that she might have critical intelligence about her former grad school colleague. Gandalf denies seeing Ahmed in many years or knowing anything about his politics. Henry believes her and orders her treated with restraint. Henry’s second in command, Tobias, strongly disagrees. As the storm intensifies, Tobias is frustrated with the lack of results; he ignores Henry’s direct orders and escalates the interrogation to physical violence and sexual intimidation.

Gandalf’s only hope is Austin. The young guard is increasingly upset with Tobias’ rough treatment of the professor. As the storm intensifies and slams the island, the conflict between Henry and Tobias detonates and Tobias becomes obsessed with breaking Gandalf.

If the women are to survive, Austin must choose sides and stand with Gandalf against the abuse of power.

Told by multiple narrators on both sides of the political divide over five days approaching the anniversary of 9/11, On Hurricane Island is both a fast-faced political thriller and a literary examination of critical issues facing our society. How far should government go in the name of protecting our national security? How free are citizens when governmental powers of surveillance and extra-legal interrogation are expanded?

On Hurricane Island continues Meeropol's tradition of dramatizing ethical concerns facing our nation and our world.


“At this frightening moment of surveillance and intimidation, On Hurricane Island could not be more timely. Amid forces grand and small, distant and local, with an echo of forgotten history and two unintentional heroines who refuse to be victims, Ellen Meeropol’s story is fierce in its indictment of nasty government action and human connivery.” – Rosellen Brown, author of Before and After

On Hurricane Island is unflinchingly political, unashamedly suspenseful, and, above all, deeply human. Here is a writer who knows how to ramp up the tension while never sacrificing the spirit of her conviction, the sense of grounding in the natural world, or the heartbreaking complexity of her characters.” – Naomi Benaron, Bellwether Prize winner for Running the Rift

On Hurricane Island is a chilling, Kafkaesque story about what happens when the United States does to citizens at home what it has done to others abroad. Meeropol puts the reader right into the middle of these practices through characters about whom you really care and a story you can’t put down; a really good book.” – Michael Ratner, Center for Constitutional Rights

On Hurricane Island takes us into the world of an imprisoned math professor who is clueless as to why she’s being interrogated. We enter the reality of federal agents facing terrifying expectations, and of a rookie civilian employee horrified by secret tasks thrust on her. Ellen Meeropol’s masterful novel rings of truth—a petrifying truth that had me whipping pages, covering my eyes, and questioning how much I really know about the growing cost of the war on terror.” – Randy Susan Meyers, author of The Comfort of Lies

“In On Hurricane Island, Ellen Meeropol takes on the complexities and dangers of contemporary life in a novel that starts fast and ratchets up the tension all the way to the end. She brings to her writing a sharp, observant eye, great skill in characterization, and, best of all, a talent for taut, suspenseful narrative in the style of Graham Greene.” – Walter Wetherell, author of A Century of November

“Ellen Meeropol can be counted on to write with intelligence and heart. In On Hurricane Island, she also manages to give us characters who we care deeply about, perfect pitch dialogue and a gripping story about civilian detention centers designed for the likes of you and me. Thoughtful and compelling.” – Jacqueline Sheehan, author of Picture This


“On Hurricane Island … is no political tract; it’s a suspenseful page-turner with a varied cast of characters, all utterly human and believable. … Meeropol has a light touch with this dark story, and gives the reader relief by intercutting her scenes and cycling through the various voices and perspectives. She has written a novel of ideas, activism, and political challenge, one that is illuminated by hope and heart.”

“These are timely, urgent issues explored in this novel. Secret prisons, civilian detention, torture. … Meeropol has done a good deed by taking this topic on, and she's done an amazing deed by turning it into a highly readable, provocative, moving book.”

“Good fiction puts you in the shoes of the characters and wraps you up in their lives for 300 pages. It paralyzes you, because all else in life suddenly becomes less important - you just have to get back to reading the story. So prepare to put your life on hold for a bit while you travel to the coast of Maine to read On Hurricane Island.”

“This novel is fast paced and exciting, but it's not all action because the characters are amazingly real with compelling, understandable motives. What happens in the detention center is far too believable, and, to me, that's what was really frightening. As an American citizen, you need to read this book.”