The 1977 thriller Seawitch continued a downslide from MacLean's best days. Unlike some of his peak works, where plots were subtle, characters were fleshed out, and results were unpredictable, this one has a real paint-by-numbers quality, as if someone had written an Alistair MacLean parody. I've seen reviews by people who thought it was OK; however, I think any true MacLean fan should finish many of his other books before considering giving this one a read.


Plot keypoints

Lord Worth, an oil billionaire whose low prices antagonize other oil magnates, has created a new type of drilling rig in the waters off Houston. His enemies enlist an explosives effort to destroy it, by any means possible. Lord Worth makes plans to defend it, in any way necessary. Oh, and he has two beautiful daughters who love two pauperly but highly skilled private investigators. Needless to say, all protagonists are utterly ruthless.



  • MacLean's knowledge of sea vessels helps him spin the yarn, and he's clearly researched the process of aquatic oil exploration.



Where to begin?

  • The characters are two-dimensional and speak in cliches. It's not clear why the reader should care about any of them.
  • The plot often seems like a recitation of events, rather than suspenseful action sequences.
  • Leading characters (good and bad), who are otherwise shown to be brilliant strategists, overlook obvious threats and fall into absurd traps.
  • The U.S. military is, multiple times, depicted as grossly incompetent; this grows tiresome.



I stayed up late finishing this one ... not because the prose was rewarding or the plot gripping, but because I kept waiting to see when he would shift into "real" Alistair MacLean mode. I reached the end and am still waiting. Originally, I gave this one three stars, but it deserves even less.



 (2 out of 10)