I never don't like a Deep Black novel and this one is no exception.
Jihadi terrorists simultaneously hijack a British cruise liner and a nearby freighter loaded with reprocessed plutonium headed for Japan. What their goal is isn't clear, but you know it's got to be horrible.
So, it's a little bit "Airport" and a little bit "The Love Boat" crossed with the real-life Achille Lauro cruise ship hijacking of the 1980s, in which the elderly, wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer was shot and dumped over the side.
This is a high-tech ship, with every passenger trackable from the microchip in their bracelets, every inch of ship monitored by cameras -- and the whole system accessible through a ship's security officer extorted by a kidnapping.
The good guys have a couple of people aboard -- two MI-5 agents investigating a murder back at the harbor, and a British agent seconded to NSA's Deep Black team who is on board, posing as a tourist, to help NSA penetrate its system. They do their best to suss out what's going on and report back without getting caught.
Meanwhile the cruise features the estranged couple trying to get back together, the prima donna rock star whose reckless lifestyle a la Spears and Lohan has a TV news crew in tow waiting for her to melt down, her diva-weary manager, a group of old lady tourists, the ship security officer on the make -- the usual disaster-film ensemble. One feature player: a robot named Rosie who can not only deal cards in the ship's casino, but banter and flirt with the customers as well.
NSA's William Rubens wants to put Deep Black's new Black Cat commando team into play. But he's stymied on one side of the Atlantic by an egotistical British general who wants to lead and get the glory, and on the other side by a U.S. president happy to let them so that he can avoid risks as he harvests the PR value of Ending Bush's Horrible Genocidal War in Iraq to signal a happy new age of American moderation in the Middle East.
Rubens, seeing a disaster in the making and knowing meanwhile the unique value his all-penetrating communications can contribute to any raid, must gamble on getting Charlie Dean and the new Black Cat team into place to help free the cruise ship without killing thousands of passengers and maybe contaminating the entire East Coast.
The technology as usual is up to the minute, plus all the inside intelligence poop presumably true or close to it. Does the U.S. really have a secret Mach 6 spy plane that flies at the edge of space taking pictures with far better resolution than even spy satellites can?
I particularly like the scene where the commandos do a high altitude parachute drop over the North Atlantic at night to hit the cruise ship. Totally bad-ass.