Published in 1962, this is the eighth full length fiction book from master of the action thriller Alistair MacLean. Returning to his beloved nautical settings, this is a tense and involved thriller full of twists and turns as the hero works out the who and why, and how to stop whoever it is.
The story is told in the first person from the viewpoint of John Carter, First Mate aboard an exclusive cruise ship/ cargo freighter. It has not been a happy voyage so far, from unexpected delays at port through to the disappearance of crew members, it is clear that something is very wrong. And it is up to Carter to find out just what. An involved tale follows where Carter must use all his wits to figure out just what is going on, then try and spike the villain's plans once he has worked out just what is going on.
All this is set against the backdrop of a sea voyage, painted as only MacLean can paint a sea voyage. His love of the sea is quite infectious. Set aboard a boat there is a limited cast of characters, and as always MacLean uses this enforced claustrophobia to good effect, with well drawn characters that interact, dodge each other and bluster around the limited boat setting in a believable way. MacLean keeps it tight, and provides a wealth of descriptive prose that really makes you see the people and the situation. The plot is well constructed, and as with all the best MacLean novels twists and writhes away from you just as you think you have a handle on it. The action set pieces are breathstopping and gripping, the suspense murderous. MacLean manages to keep some details back, even though it is narrated in the first person, so that parts of the ending are quite a surprise. It takes no small amount of skill to do this.
A ripping good read, right from MacLean's golden period. Thoroughly recommended.