Two adrenaline junkies meet during a shark-research expedition in McCaffrey’s (The Bluebird, 2016, etc.) adventure novel with more than a hint of romance.
At 26, Grace Mann has a doctorate, works as a researcher for the California Marine Institute, and is famous, to boot, after a photograph of her free diving with a great white shark goes viral. Her latest expedition takes her to Guadalupe Island, near the Baja California peninsula, to tag great whites and test out a sonar array to track them; Grace also looks forward to free diving with sharks some more. Alec Galloway joins the team as a documentary filmmaker, and immediately, he and Grace are drawn to each other. But as Alec’s feelings for Grace grow, so does his concern for her safety. And as the danger of her underwater encounters ramps up, so do tensions on the boat. Meanwhile, a film distributor linked to the expedition wants more footage of bloody shark encounters; Grace’s ex-boyfriend, Brad Michaels, who’s now her boss, tries to steal her work; and a graduate student, Mackenzie, flirts with Alec and stirs Grace’s jealousy. McCaffrey effectively increases the tension every time Grace enters the water; readers will never know what will happen next. She also draws out the sexual tension between Grace and Alec at length. McCaffrey has clearly done her research, noting that sharks are “notoriously bashful” and showing Grace using a technique called “tonic immobility” to calm a shark; at another point, she notes that when Grace free-dives, “her spleen—in response to the lack of air—release[s] fresh, oxygen-rich blood into her system.” The author tells the story from a close third-person perspective, shifting between Alec and Grace, making readers privy to their true feelings. At times, though, this gets a little repetitive, as does all the minutiae regarding meals and clothes.
An often engaging tale, but stronger editing might have turned it into a gem.