Death Echo is categorized as a suspense novel. On that score, the book delivers, but not for the reason that the author intended: I was in suspense for the entire book trying to figure out what was going on.
Emma Cross, of the elite security consulting firm St. Kilda's, is assigned to find out if a newly commissioned yacht is the same yacht that was supposedly washed overboard on its way to being delivered. Intel says that at least one of these yachts is going to be used to destroy an American city seven days into the future.
Emma gets herself aboard the yacht while it's being sailed up the Pacific coast of Washington and Canada on the way to being delivered to its new owner. She and the transit captain, MacKenzie Durand, search the yacht but don't find anything lethal aboard. And yet they continue their journey over the better part of the week, somehow hoping that when the yacht reaches its destination they will figure out exactly how it's to be used to destroy the unknown city.
The author throws in some inter-agency bickering, perhaps to show how incompetent the covert community really is. I suppose this is to justify hiring St. Kilda's to sort out the mess. And it all hinges on Emma Cross, who you think would be dead serious about her mission instead of spending most of the book fantasizing about and bantering with Mac. After many pages of sexual innuendo, ear nibbling, and finger sucking, Emma and Mac finally consummate their relationship in a graphic sex scene.
I would have been delighted if the attraction between Emma and Mac had made the story sizzle, but it didn't. The biggest problem I had with the book is that most of it was so boring, unless you're interested in the ins and outs of yachtmanship. To be fair, I did find this esoterica interesting at first, but eventually tired of it when it took the place of plot development.
The author, whose real name is Ann Maxwell, began her writing career in 1975 with science fiction. She didn't start writing romance until 1982, under the name Elizabeth Lowell. She has said that she welcomed her foray into romance suspense novels because she “loved being able to include a relationship in [her] books, because at that time the idea of a man and a woman working together was unexpected and/or unwelcome in thrillers, mysteries, and science fiction.”
The author does succeed in her depiction of a male-female team who fit well together (in every sense of the word), but it's hard to see how they are able to develop more than a purely sexual relationship in less than a week. And yet we are led to believe that they have finally found their soul mates. The reader is given only the scantiest of back stories for Emma and Mac, so it's hard to see them as real people. The most fleshed-out character is a former Russian agent who is trying to take possession of the yacht, but since it's not clear what his motive is, it's difficult to sort out how he relates to the story.
If you can make it through all the nautical details, you'll finally be rewarded during the last forty pages. If you're a boating enthusiast, you'll be in seventh heaven. If you like your international intrigue confusing and shadowy, this is the book for you. But if you're looking for strong, well-developed character and plot development, my advice would be to look elsewhere.