The grand master of the deep-water thriller (Medusa, 1988, etc.) sails to coldest Chile, Tierra del Fuego, and antarctic points beyond to pick at the old sores and hidden horrors of Argentina's shameful politics. The job prospects for youngish Peter Kettil are not good. Declared redundant by the conglomerate that has bought out the ancient East Anglian firm for which he worked, Kettil, a fine sailor and an expert in the arcana of wood preservation, sees nothing for it but to become a consultant. His very first job is a doozy: He's summoned to the naval museum at Greenwich to meet with glamorous South American widow Iris Sunderby and Iain Ward, a blustering Scotsman who wants to apply his recent wealth to the search for an icebound 19th-century sailing ship discovered in Antarctica by the late Mr. Sunderby. The museum would like Peter's opinion on the ship's condition. Peter hires on, but the apparent murder of beautiful Iris by her hot headed ""cousin,"" an Argentine student adrift in London, seems to doom the expedition. Mr. Ward, however, insists that Peter accompany him to Peru, where, after a hair-raising trek through the coastal desert and the maritime Andes, they find Mrs. Sunderby alive and in the clutches of a villain who has been enjoying her drugged favors and who may be her brother. Once rescued, Iris is still eager to fit out the motor sailboat for which the increasingly mysterious Mr. Ward has plunked down cash. The search will be anything but straightforward. The murderous student from London is not only in town but is eager to sign on the crew. And he and Iris are terribly interested in the kidnapper from Peru who has decamped to the Straits of Magellan, where he too plans to join the search. Located after some rather heroic seamanship, the mystery ship yields up its dreadful secrets and Iris's family tree is untangled. A sensational cruise. Innes knows sailing as well as anybody writing and manages to make being soaked and frozen in the Straits of Magellan attractive. The mystery is clever, too, though off-putting.