Friday, February 20, 2015

Cloak & Dagger #4

Grave Descend – Michael Crichton, writing as John Lange

Semi-broken down Marine combat veteran is hired to dive and salvage a sunken luxury yacht in waters off Jamaica. The yacht reportedly went down the day before due to unknown causes. The employer seems cagey about what exactly will be found on the yacht.

But ominous signs – like seeing the yacht deliberately blown up in front of his eyes – make our hero smell a rat. He realizes that he is being played for a fool, fall guy, or murder victim by very rich, very cunning villains.

All in all, this is an ordinary pulp thriller with rapid-fire action and violence. Plus, we have characters with bounteous curves, one of whom keeps two ocelots, named Fiona and Fido. Fido provides the only comic relief in the book, while they both feature in the climax.

The prose reminded me of Erle Stanley Gardner, since description and characterization were kept to a bare minimum.

In the distance, he could see blue water, with waves breaking across the inner reefs, and hotels lining the beachfront.

What more could a fan of bare-bone punch ask? Putting vapid characters through lots of twists and turns does have entertainment value, especially when we don’t feel up to reading something more challenging but perhaps less entertaining. Back in 1970, this novel was nominated for an Edgar Award, which must have tickled then-med student Crichton.

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