A first-rate sea story whose tempest-tossed drama is swamped by extravagant subplots featuring Colombian druglords who want to control the world's financial system. On patrol in the Southern Hemisphere, a US Navy destroyer sights a dead-in-the-water freighter 250 miles offshore Peru. Despite heavy going, the American vessel's captain sends an eight- member contingent headed by engineering officer Daniel Blake for a look-see. The boarders soon find 30.0 tons of refined cocaine, explosive processing materials (acetone, ether, etc.), $350.0 million in cash, and a half dozen savagely mutilated bodies. Meantime, Jorge Cordoba (godson of the jefe who heads an immensely lucrative narcotics cartel known as The Confederation) learns that his ship isn't going to come in, any time soon at least, because a mute monster called El Callado ill-advisedly posted below decks for security purposes has run amok. Eager to redeem himself with his enraged patron, Cordoba volunteers to lead a recovery mission. But he can't launch his helicopter-borne salvage strike immediately because a tropical cyclone has blown up in the vicinity of the seemingly abandoned treasure ship. The same atmospheric disturbance keeps the American sailors (whose ranks are steadily thinned by the so-called Silent One) from returning to their destroyer. In desperation, Blake fires up the derelict's boilers to ride out the hellish storm. He manages to do so and is making for a remote islet when Cordoba (who has latterly learned his sponsor betrayed him) flies through the friendlier skies to land on the stricken craft. More unfortunates meet sudden ends, and the disaffected Cordoba wreaks spectacular vengeance on his former colleagues, leaving only Blake, a comely radio operator, and a little girl to tell the tale. Newcomer Medland offers impressively detailed and gripping accounts of rough weather on the open ocean, the power plants of aging merchant vessels, and allied nautical matters, but he's much less adept at controlling runaway storylines.
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