Ghost Ship: A Kurt Austin Adventure
Clive Cussler and Graham Brown bring to life this latest Kurt Austin adventure from the NUMA Files, enticing readers with a prologue set in 1909 in Durban, South Africa. Chief Inspector Robert Swan of the Durban Police Department and his men have traced the notorious Klaar River Gang to a remote farmhouse. To their astonishment, the building is on fire, flames shooting into the dark sky. Shots soon ring out, and the lawmen duck for cover. They discover no outlaws shooting but hordes of ammunition igniting in the inferno. A massive explosion from within the house sends scraps of confetti fluttering to earth. The paper pieces, some bundled together, prove to be thousands of British 10-pound notes, presumably the loot from the Gang’s last bank robbery.
From the puzzling turn-of-the-century scene, Cussler and Brown’s tale advances to a bay off the coast of Mozambique in 1987. A fishing trawler spots a small wooden dinghy, badly weathered and drifting. With his craft now roped to the dinghy, visions of treasure cross the captain’s mind. But once aboard, his crew uncovers the bodies of a young woman and two boys, dead with signs that they had been held captive. Markings etched on its wooden hull indicate that the small boat may have come from a bygone era.
"Merciless villains, double-dealing partners and swift seafaring activity all carry Cussler fans on a harrowing chase to outwit the bad guys in favor of good."
Cussler and Brown skillfully move forth into the present day, when NUMA crew members Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala fly on board a rescue helicopter on a mission to offer assistance to vessels floundering in the Indian Ocean in a raging storm off South Africa. When the Ethernet, an American luxury yacht belonging to Internet billionaire Brian Westgate, is located, it’s about to turn over. Westgate is believed to be on board with his wife, Sienna, and two children. Sienna is a world-famous computer programmer and Austin’s former love. Austin reaches the doomed yacht by dangling from a rope hoist onto its deck, fighting fierce water swells. Making his way to a glass wall, he sees a wet blonde face, with a child floating beside the woman, on the side opposite him. He feels himself yanked by a cable, then dropped against the sinking bulkhead when the cable snaps.
Several months later, Austin recovers from his near-drowning but is consumed by recurring nightmares that leave him dazed and confused. His fractured skull is healing, but the traumatic brain injury has left him with a severe case of survivor’s guilt. He is not convinced that Sienna is dead. An inquiry through international contacts gives credibility to his belief that she is alive, possibly being held hostage. But why? And by whom? Austin’s instinct leads him in the direction of her rumored sighting.
On the advice of his doctor, Austin returns to work as NUMA Director of Special Projects, with Zavala as Assistant Director. Both attend an evening event at the Smithsonian where Westgate, the lone yacht survivor, will donate computers to downtrodden schoolchildren, armed with secure networking from the Phalanx program developed by his late wife. Austin engages him afterward with a question: “Where were you when the Ethernet went down?” The CEO of Westgate’s company, David Forrester, intervenes and calls Security, at which point Austin and Zavala are escorted from the building. When U.S. government sources reveal that Austin’s suspicions may have merit, Austin, Zavala and the entire crew become embroiled in a situation that may erupt with far-reaching consequences.
With most pieces to a state-sponsored puzzle of suspicious events revealed, Cussler and Brown invent a plot both convoluted and bizarre. Outcomes potentially have world-crashing cyber-outcomes. Into the fray comes a tangle of criminal activity rooted in early 20th-century unsolved mysteries. Descendants from ill-fated crime families of earlier eras carry out horrendous plans to rule modern society from its cyberspace. Mozambique, Dubai, North and South Korea, Iran, South Africa and the vast Indian Ocean provide backdrops for the adventures of the NUMA crew. In these 400+ pages, human trafficking and kidnapped scientists factor into the broad-based pursuit of the truth. Merciless villains, double-dealing partners and swift seafaring activity all carry Cussler fans on a harrowing chase to outwit the bad guys in favor of good.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on July 3, 2014