If Richard Mariner can't retake a gas tanker that's been seized by pirates within the next four days, the coast of Japan will suffer major devastation.
The liquefied-natural-gas transporter Sayonara, a joint project of the British firm Heritage Mariner and the Russian Bashnev/Sevmash, sets off from Rat Island Pass near the Aleutians with no crew. It's the first tanker of its kind, completely computer-controlled. In London, Richard and Robin Mariner are about to head for the theater when they receive a red alert from their remote monitor, Indira. Robin is left to go alone while Richard flies to Moscow to assess the situation and consult with his Russian partners, Felix Makarov and Aleks Zaitsev. Chapter titles boldly pinpoint the hours pending until "impact." Richard learns that the tanker has been seized by pirates, most likely Italians involved in drugs, extortion and gang warfare with rival Afghans. Robin meets with local intelligence agents to fill in the back stories of the presumed perpetrators while Richard and his colleagues close in. Knowing full well that he's walking into a trap, Richard allows his team to board the ship; after all, what other option is there but engagement? Meanwhile, both Mariners realize they may be mistaken in their original assumptions about the pirates, whose true identities could cut disturbingly close to home. Can Richard trust anyone?
The large cast of characters, many of them recurring, may daunt readers new to the Mariners' adventures (Black Pearl, 2013, etc.). But this installment is tense, action-packed and authentic-feeling, especially in its welcome attention to maritime detail.