The Golden Rendezvous

Written at the height of his powers, Alistair MacLean's 1962 thriller The Golden Rendezvous contains many of his trademarks: shipboard mystery and mayhem, a first-person protagonist with a penetrating intellect, and a naive young woman who learns to play a grown-up role in defeating evil. MacLean's prose is in top form; one can almost feel the tropical sun beating down from above, the deck swaying rhythmically underfoot, and the power of the romantic interest's intriguing green eyes. However, this isn't one of my favorites. The schemes by both the criminals and the heroes) are just a bit too unbelievable, the romantic bits (particulary the outcome) feel pasted onto the rest of the plot, and some of the characters are too strongly stereotypical. Having said all that, I still think it read-worthy by anyone who has enjoyed some of his higher-rated works.


Plot keypoints

The world's rich and famous clamor to cruise on the S.S. Campari, a freighter lavishly outfitted to provide passengers the very height of luxury. However, bad omens are besetting the ship: a revolution in the small Caribbean nation where the Campari lies in port; a tragedy causing some passengers to be summoned home, while their places are taken by mysterious newcomers; and even the disappearance of a tactical nuclear missile from an area the ship had just visited. These circumstances will conspire to test the crew — and in particular, Chief Officer John Carter, whose other burdens include a mercurially moody captain and unwanted attention from beautiful young Susan Beresford, traveling with her immensely wealthy family.



  • MacLean's skill in depicting both quiet scenes and desperate action is on full display.
  • When he writes about boats, his love of the sea is infectious, and — unlike some of his other books — The Golden Rendezvous doesn't require the reader to master and memorize many points of naval architecture and nautical theory.
  • Plenty of unanticipated plot twists and ingenious good-guy strategies retain the reader's interest.



  • For several reasons, I had little trouble figuring out who the evildoers were.
  • Their plan is so convoluted and unlikely to work that the reader really has to suspend disbelief.
  • We've met some of these supporting elements too many times before: the world's richest man, the Scottish warrior who claims the gift of foresight, the powerful storm that rises up to complicate the action, the whiskey that can seemingly cure all ills ....
  • Here's yet another unlikely romance, in which the couple all too quickly (and clumsily) moves from disdain to rapture.



As I've said about at least one other book: a complex and suspenseful tale, told in intricate prose, that falls short of MacLean's very best.



(7 out of 10)