What do fans of Alistair MacLean's books enjoy? Some of them probably favor slam-bang action, while
others relish the more cerebral aspects. If you're in the former group, 1986's
Santorini is not your cup
of tea. The latter readers, though, might find it worth their while. Published just the year before his
death, this is the last book MacLean wrote, and the book's sedate plotline may reflect the author's own lack
of energy. Comparing this conversation-heavy story with his very first novel, the relentlessly pounding WWII
battle tale H.M.S. Ulysses, one sees how he reduced his
reliance on violence and increased the protagonists' use of cleverness in overcoming looming evil. (As
much as I generally loathe violence, his early books — with their assassinations, assaults and chase scenes —
are far better than his gentler later works.)
It's a busy day in the Aegean Sea for the Royal Navy ship Ariadne. A jet crashes into the water near a
pleasure boat that is aflame and sinking. What connection could the boat's surviving passengers have with the jet's
deadly cargo, which now lies on the sea bottom? It's up to Captain Talbot and Admiral Hawkins to root out and stop
the terrorist plot — with some stateside help from the Pentagon and even the president.
- The setup is quite promising: nuclear weapons, shady characters, beyond-capable naval officers. It was easy
to keep turning pages.
- Interesting bits of actual history (mainly of natural disasters) are thrown in to enhance the sense of
- As in a few of MacLean's other later books (most notably Floodgate), he spends most of the book setting up a final confrontation that
then peters out disappointingly.
- Too often, his protagonists seem smug and fully confident that they have anticipated and defused any
threats from the bad guys; in the face of such a potential catastrophe, real people wouldn't act this way.
- Much of the action that does occur takes place behind the scenes; the protagonists are notified of it from
afar. The reader is told of, but not shown, some key happenings.
I was trying hard to like this book, and up to a point I did; but that point came and was passed, and by the
book's end, I still felt unsatisfied.
♦♦♦♦♦ (5 out of