1958 thriller/war story. In February 1942, Singapore is about to fall
to the Japanese; one last ship makes it out, but those who made it
aboard won't have an easy trip to safety.
This is an interestingly transitional book: it's a war story like
MacLean's first two, with our heroes surviving dive bombers and
surface attacks, but for the most part it doesn't deal with military
forces, as most of the motley crew are civilians. And of course some
of them will be secretly working for the Japanese, who are here
presented in their full stereotyped wartime leering-yellow-devil
evilness (none of that "we could have been friends if not for the war"
here); playing spot-the-traitor is an important part of the process of
reading the book. Microfilm is, of course, involved.
Character development is minimal as usual, and I suppose that's fair
enough since this is mostly a thriller. I was interested mainly in the
setting, but we get out of Singapore pretty quickly, and most of the
action happens at sea. There are of course twists in which bad guys
reveal themselves to be good guys really, and vice versa; lots of
bravery, and selfishness, as appropriate to people's characters… All
right, someone is grabbed by a giant clam, and barracuda are "the most
voracious killers of the sea".
The action is non-stop and at times even tiring, and the ending is
rather abrupt. It feels dashed off, rather than having had the care
and attention that the first two books clearly received. Not peak
MacLean; it's rather more on a par with his later years.