I knew nothing about The Titanic Enigma (or its author) when I bought it, other than that it had these factors going for it – marine archaeology, oceans, the Titanic, baddies, scientific secrets, explosions. With ingredients like these, there was no choice but to download and read it as soon as it became available. I’m delighted to report that the resulting dish was a pageturning thrill of a ride that brought together two equally exciting stories, one set in the present day and the other back in April 1912 aboard the largest manmade moving object of its day which was not, despite the poster headlines suggesting the contrary, unsinkable.
Lou Bates and Kate Wetherall are marine archaeologists working in Bermuda on the wreck of a pilgrim fathers vessel from the early 1600s. Meanwhile, in a colder part of the Atlantic, a burst of something radioative and lethal is unleashed from the deep ocean floor, bursting upwards, killing all sealife in its path, including a large whale. Its point of origin is the wreck of the Titanic with all the evidence indicating that it’s manmade. Captain Jerry Derham of the United States Navy therefore enlists the help of Kate and Lou to discover the source using state of the art technology. Of course, this is also a chance of a lifetime for Kate and Lou – they will be able to explore in person the most famous wreck on the planet.
As if that’s not exciting enough, you have to throw into the mix a host of competing agencies from across the globe, all intent on discovering for themselves (or stealing or killing for) the radioactive material and, more importantly, the mathematical and scientific formulae that Kate and Lou are able to recover from the Titanic on their first dive. The race is on, the stakes are high and no-one’s life is valued more highly than the secrets that sank to the depths of the ocean one hundred years ago aboard the Titanic.
The Titanic Enigma moves between two worlds – that of the hunt to discover (and steal) the lost secrets and that of the last days of the Titanic. In 1912 Europe was preparing for war and the scientific mystery carried aboard the vessel was a valuable prize. Tom West does a fine job of bringing life into both stories, evoking the past splendour of the Titanic (plus what it reveals about class divisions) as well as the alien awe of exploring its remains a century on. The characters have a reality to them. The mysterious gentleman and his shipmates aboard the Titanic are vividly hinted at while Kate and Lou in the present day are not superhuman. They have a lot to be frightened about and they are. Also, one aspect I particularly liked is that some of the evil deeds that happen are hinted at and not salaciously displayed before the reader in all their detail. This actually made them seem more disturbing and believable. The baddies are likewise an interesting bunch.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Titanic Enigma. It had a slow start but it quickly picked up and I raced through it. One thing, though. I would have loved to have found out more about the Pilgrim vessel off Bermuda. Clearly, Tom West has succeeded in making me want more. A much recommended holiday read.