The Poseidon Adventure, Speed 2, Plague Ship - and so the B-grade cruise ship disaster genre comes full circle. Complete with wooden acting, blatantly telegraphed suspense, and layer upon layer of coincidental contrivances, this is a literary adventure that barely managed to limp its way out of port.
I really wanted to enjoy this, and had been looking forward to the read for quite a while. I knew nothing about Leonard Goldberg, but the cover blurb sounded interesting. Unfortunately, the sense of dread that settled over me in the first chapter just got heavier as time went on. When a book has you groaning out loud, mentally mocking just how obvious and and just how deliberate the set-up is, there had better be a damned fine payoff at the end to justify your patience.
I'll save you the suspense - there isn't.
Let me set the stage for you. An exact replica of the Titanic (uh-oh) sets sail for a luxury cruise with an inept doctor (oh-no) who wants off at the next port (yikes) . It gets caught in rough seas that make everybody nauseous (uh-oh) , during which time it conveniently suffers a minor disaster (oh-no) when a piece of the ship breaks off and renders the helipad useless (yikes). A sick bird (uh-oh) makes an emergency landing on board,where it's taken care of by two young children (oh-no), and conveniently hidden in the one place where it's every blood-laden cough is sucked directly into the ventilation (yikes). I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
While strong, likable characters might have been able to save this, they're not to be found here. The protagonists are cold and boring, like badly cast British snobs, and the antagonists are from the cold-hearted school of cartoon acting. The kids are, as you might expect, sickeningly precocious, and milked for every ounce of sympathy. The plot behind the plague is actually kind of interesting, and could have made for an exciting book, if it weren't dragged down by the weak characters and the "let me hit you over the head with clues so you don't miss them" narrative. Not even a surprise appearance by Quincy, M.E.could have saved this one, and he solved the case 30 years ago!
If you were thinking of embarking on the maiden voyage of the Plague Ship, I suggest a pleasant staycation with a book - any other book - instead.
Paperback, 384 pages
Expected publication: October 8th 2013 by Midnight Ink