Poyer, a graduate of Annapolis and author of the naval novels The Return of Philo T. McGiffin (1983) and The Med (1988), goes undersea for a story of salvage and intrigue patterned on Peter Benchley's The Deep. Tiller Galloway, a salvage diver trying to live down a hundred-year family history of naval service and a prison term for transporting drugs, is approached by Richard Keyes, who wants him to look for a wreck off Cape Hatteras. The wreck, a U-boat sunk by a PT boat under Galloway's father two days after V-E Day, contains a fortune in gold bullion that Keyes doesn't want to share with other possible claimants or the authorities. Galloway is agreeable; but in nosing around for information about the wreck, he inadvertently saddles himself with another passenger, Shad Aydlett, whose brother Galloway had killed in a face-off over drugs. Together with Galloway's freshman parole officer Bernice Hirsch, they put to sea, most of the men at each other's throats. After all the obligatory perils of the genre—bad weather, fights over money and women, shortages of oxygen, jammed regulators, shark attack, entrapment below, multiple treacheries—they retrieve the bullion, and then the real fun begins. It seems the Israelis are after the gold, and so are the Nazis you always knew were living in Argentina. These twists make for excitement and lots of surprises, and also for a certain heroic silliness. Still, it's hard to dislike a book whose heroine is threatened with impregnation by the Fuhrer's son. And the last 25 pages, with two separate incidents of characters coming back from apparent death to avenge themselves, are vastly entertaining, however preposterous. Solid nautical detail, good action scenes, weak continuity, embarrassing moralizing.
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