An alternate history of the Titanic disaster.
Cibrano (Dead Reckoning, 2011) envisions a scenario in which the 1912 sinking of the Titanic wasn’t a tragic accident but part of a sinister plot intended to incite a world war. Two months after the “unsinkable” ship hits an iceberg in the North Atlantic and more than 1,500 people die, former president Theodore Roosevelt requests a meeting with Allan Pinkerton, the businesslike head of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency. Roosevelt has information that suggests the ship’s sinking may not have been an accident, and he orders Pinkerton to investigate further. Star detective Frank Dimaio, whose claim to fame is tracking down Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid in Bolivia, is assigned to the case, and he and Pinkerton uncover a vast conspiracy that stretches to the highest levels of the British government. The scheme, which combines insurance fraud, espionage and an assassination plot, would be nearly unbelievable if Cibrano didn’t draw it so cleverly from actual historical events. In this counterfactual retelling, the sinking of the Titanic is intended to spark a war among England, the United States and Germany—just as the real-life sinking of the Lusitania led to America’s entry into World War I a few years later. Careful details and well-crafted dialogue help bring the novel’s cast of notable historical figures to life. Roosevelt is all jovial, back-slapping swagger, while financier J.P. Morgan fills the role of nefarious robber baron. Dimaio’s and Pinkerton’s real-life exploits also inform their fictional characters’. The book is not without flaws; for example, the timeline is confusing—at one point, it’s a “warm June midday,” but seemingly just a few days later, there are “colorful parasols parading under the bright midday September sun.” The third-person, present-tense narration is also an odd, sometimes off-putting, choice for a historical novel. That said, this twisty thriller will likely entertain anyone who appreciates a good dose of conspiracy and political intrigue, and it will appeal most to Titanic aficionados.
A fresh, engaging take on a frequently fictionalized disaster.