Among the better you-are-there disaster epics--and far preferable to Colin Simpson's dubious 1972 ""exposÃ‰"" for readers who just want to get at the story. The Lusitania was a 30,000-ton Cunarder sailing from New York to Liverpool in 1915 through U-boat-infested waters in the Irish Sea and the Channel when it was torpedoed and sunk. Was the vessel carrying munitions and war matÃ‰riel, making it fair game for the Germans? Since it was a British ship, it was fair game; but liners about to be sunk normally were warned in time for the passengers to be disembarked. Were guns emplaced in sealed deck cabins? The German Embassy in Washington had announced, in the New York newspapers, that the Lusitania would not be spared, despite the presence of American passengers. Why didn't the Admiralty send out warships to guard the hugely valuable liner as it approached? Did Churchill actually want it sunk, to plunge America into the war? By contrast with Simpson's charges of duplicity, the answers are not earth-shaking. The book's main appeal rests--fairly evenly--upon the glamorous folk aboard (Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, Charles Frohman, Elbert Hubbard), the posh life of first-class passengers, the acts of heroism during the sinking, and identification with those experiencing the horror (the tension of the torpedo's firing is in a class by itself). Captain Turner, who went down with the ship but survived, was exonerated by a court of enquiry and by the public; but he had to bear the onus of not actually dying for the rest of his life. A brisk reconstruction with a gripping climax.