Smashing, edge-of-the-seat thriller about a gloomy rescue paratrooper with a death wish who risks all to save a monomaniacal software mogul and the mogul's ex-lover in the storm-tossed Bering Sea.
Thayer's previous titles (Terminal Event, 1999, etc.) have always been more than merely professional commercial fiction. He delivers the requisite believable characters, thorough research bristling with entertaining facts (how did he find out that as many as 124 bodies of water in America are named Deep Creek?), and a deceptively herky-jerky kind of plotting that builds to a relentless rush. What puts Thayer's 12th outing among his finest is the masterful way he updates an essentially old-fashioned sea saga by having the staggering violence of nature cast in high relief his characters' best and worst traits. The man with the worst is billionaire Rex Wyman, a sneaky spider king based on the more annoying aspects of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and other computer-geek executives. With his company's stock price going south amid unsteadiness in the dot.com world, Wyman wants to cover himself with glory by racing his computer-controlled yacht from San Francisco to Tokyo, competing against human-controlled vessels. A host of bad guys want Wyman to have a great fall, and they get their chance when the yacht, containing Wyman and his employee/lover Gwen Weld, founders in a terrible storm off the Alaskan coast. Despite the punishing seas, Gwen can communicate via e-mail with rescuer Jess McKay, a gung-ho Special Tactics Air Force Captain haunted by his failure to save his younger brother in a white-water rafting accident. It's foregone that McKay will have to best human and natural adversaries: Thayer adds a wonderful romantic element to the suspense as McKay, who could care less about Wyman, finds himself falling in love via e-mail with a woman he's never seen.
A masterful, enthralling sea story to put alongside the genre's classics.