Cussler and Brown (The Pharaoh's Secret, 2015, etc.) yank National Underwater and Marine Agency stalwart Kurt Austin off a Hawaiian beach where he’s chasing big waves. He’s needed to find the Nighthawk, an exotic spacecraft lost by the U.S. Air Force and the National Security Agency.
The Nighthawk spent three years in orbit on a mission to harvest "mixed-state matter" from the polar magnetic field, only to be hijacked during its descent. Mixed-state matter must be kept at supercold temperatures. If the spacecraft isn't found before its cooling system quits, the matter and antimatter will annihilate one another in the proverbial Big Bang: an explosion equal to five times the world’s nuclear weapons stockpile set off simultaneously. The authors don't so much develop characters as typecast them, though they do introduce a new heroine: Emily Townsend is drafted to work with Kurt as science support. With her take-no-prisoners style, she’s known as Hurricane Emma to NSA co-workers. Ranging across the Pacific to the Andes, the tale is composed of multiple chase-and-fight scenes with Kurt, Emily, and NUMA cohorts escaping one trap only to fall into another. The dialogue is jaunty banter in the face of disaster. Science is simplified. Something called a Penning trap captures mixed-state matter, but its construction remains unexplained, as does Russia’s fielding of modified surplus bombers capable of edge-of-space Nighthawk retrieval. The pace is hypersonic, pausing occasionally to highlight an interesting factoid—European diseases like smallpox reduced indigenous pre-Columbus populations by 95 percent—but there’s time for the Russians to launch torpedoes at a NUMA submersible; uncover a triple agent/mole; and let loose deadly Chinese operatives from the Ministry of State Security’s stash of "children that were never born."
Cussler and company deliver another fun page-turner with a plot ranging from the highly improbable to the totally implausible.