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A hit-and-miss thriller—and complete change of pace—from the author of such highly praised story collections as Harry Belten and the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (1975, not reviewed) and Kingdoms (1980). Targan’s heroine, Katherine Dennison, is a middle-aged photographer and author of children’s books who has recently divorced her unfaithful husband, still mourns the death (in a kayaking accident) of her only son, and maintains distance from her estranged adult daughter and other painful reminders of her past by living aboard the Marindor, a 45- foot wooden sailing boat, on the central Maine coast. Accepting a proposal to search for the cargo of a plane that crashed in the ocean near Charleston, South Carolina, Katherine is held hostage, with her passengers, by a pair of gun-toting stowaways who want in on the action (which is never fully explained, though the underwater McGuffin is a computer disk crucial to Swiss bankers’ control of the international money flow). Little happens during the four days of the Marindor’s journey southward, though Targan skillfully depicts the wary cat-and-mouse relationship that develops between Katherine and the more interesting of her captors, the saturnine, surprisingly articulate Calvin Barstow. An unconvincingly tame denouement and a tension-draining abundance of flashbacks are the major weaknesses of a curious fictional hybrid whose knowing presentation of Katherine and her chosen milieu is far more engaging than its very perfunctory plot. Targan’s real interest obviously lies in exploring the changes in his protagonist, who travels from having “not believed that people like herself were betrayed by a husband, or that they could lose a son to nothing” to realizing that the Marindor was her escape and refuge from other human connections, and it is these to which she must find a way to return. More successful as character study than as drama, and an unusual step sideways in its accomplished author’s unusual career.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1998
ISBN: 1-878448-80-3
Page count: 234pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998