“Dark Dive” by Andrew Mayne

Although I’ve been a fan of Andrew Mayne thrillers for some time, I never reviewed his books for Southern Literary Review. His early novels, like the superb story in The Naturalist, aren’t set in the South, so I read them only for enjoyment, not for sharing with SLR readers. But after hurtling through title after title, it dawned on me that the latest series is set in Florida. Which makes it eligible for reviewing here. Which means introducing more readers to these intelligent, suspense-packed books. If you like thrillers, you’ll be delighted with Andrew Mayne’s stories.

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Mayne’s latest title, Dark Dive (Thomas & Mercer 2024), is the fifth in his “Underwater Investigations Unit” series featuring Sloan McPherson. Like other titles in this series, Dark Dive is a riveting read. A law enforcement officer, Sloan dives in waters where giant alligators, pythons, anacondas, and crocodiles lurk as she retrieves bodies from caves, ponds, and canals. Her sidekick on these adventures is former navy diver Scott Hughes; her boss, the intrepid George Solar who goes after public corruption too challenging for other agencies to handle.

This excellent series includes Black Coral, Sea Storm, The Girl Beneath the Sea, and Sea Castle. While these first titles are set in South Florida, Dark Dive moves deep into the Ocala National Forest in Central Florida as Sloan and Scott search for a missing diver in the many sinkholes and caves scattered throughout the eerily beautiful forest.

Mayne’s diving expertise lends realistic details to the thriller, as does his scientific knowledge of dangerous creatures. Additionally, his work with artificial intelligence comes to the forefront as Sloan’s partner Scott is testing a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) he has developed to surveil underwater areas too dangerous for divers. Not that danger ever stopped Sloan or Scott from hopping into a murky pond or canal when necessary. And it becomes necessary numerous times in this novel, creating hair-raising, nail-biting suspense as the divers encounter predators, both reptilian and human.

Missing family friend Fred Stafford is the best diver Sloan has ever known. She thinks if Stafford is mortal, it means they all are. Scary thought. She discovers Stafford’s abandoned truck and recovers some of his equipment from a sinkhole. No body. Yet. But Sloan doesn’t give up easily. She keeps on searching, turning up clues about Stafford’s private life. His gambling. A secret identity change. A storage unit with a huge surprise waiting inside. But who, among several suspects, had reason to want him dead?

A subplot unfolds as Sloan’s sleuthing uncovers a former orphanage and an adjacent graveyard containing murdered children who were never missed by anyone. What tortures did these youngsters endure? The worst monsters in Mayne’s books are always human.

Dark Dive takes readers on another fine adventure. It is a stand-alone story, but go ahead and start with the first book in the series. Mayne’s writing is addictive.  You’ll want to catch his Theo Cray and Jessica Blackwood series, too.

Andrew Mayne

Andrew Mayne is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author whose books include The Naturalist, a Thriller Award finalist and Black Fall an Edgar Award finalist. He’s the star of the Discovery Channel’s Shark Week special “Andrew Mayne: Ghost Diver,” where he swam alongside great white sharks using an underwater invisibility suit he designed and also was the star of A&E’s “Don’t Trust Andrew Mayne.” He currently serves as the Science Communicator for OpenAI, the creators of ChatGPT and GPT-4.

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