WHITE SHARK by Peter Benchley


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 Benchley's (Jaws, 1974) latest chiller is a briskly entertaining, albeit predictable yarn set in his familiar literary spawning grounds. Dead animals and the occasional part of a dead person can be found floating near Simon Chase's oceanography lab off the Connecticut coast. Initially, Chase, his sidekicks--his son Max and Tall Man, a lanky Native American--and we clever readers familiar with Benchley's oeuvre believe this carnage to be the work of a shark or some other sea monster. But the title turns out to be something of a red herring. The real culprit, a seven-foot-tall aquatic humanoid with stainless steel teeth and claws, is the result of Nazi genetic experiments during WW II and is known as ``Der Weisse Hai''--and you don't need to speak German to know what that translates as. Anyway, after the submarine carrying it to an SS hideout in Argentina is destroyed in the heart-pounding prologue, the creature lies dormant for a half-century until some unlucky divers let it out of its cryogenic crypt. Once freed, ``Whitey'' gets in touch with his feelings and rediscovers his true mission in life: to hunt and kill. Peripheral characters pop up, die, and exit. Meanwhile, Chase is busy preparing his lab for Amanda Mays, a visiting marine biologist who comes to track and film whales, using cameras mounted on trained sea lions. Chase and Mays know something bad is out there after seeing footage of the creature killing one of the sea lions. Their suspicions are confirmed when retired Nazi scientist Jacob Franks arrives to give the lowdown on the monster who, by this time, has come aground to hunt more challenging prey, thereby setting up a gory and thrilling climax. The story's sum effect is hampered by foreshadowing of the ``fin-sticking-outta-the-water'' variety. Benchley's still drifting with the same current he navigated over two decades ago. (Literary Guild main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-679-40356-6
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1994


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