(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Ghost ships exert a powerful pull on the human imagination, but what secret could be menacing enough to endanger lives sixty years later? The space yacht Polaris’s last journey, carrying a handful of celebrities and a minimum crew, set out to merely offer a spectacular view of a star system’s breakup. Shortly afterward, all aboard vanished. That was sixty years ago. Now some items from the ill-fated ship have come up for sale.

When antiquities dealer Alex Benedict buys them, he expects to make money, not to be tossed into the heart of a still simmering cover-up. But a museum explosion, skimmer malfunctions, office break-ins, and other threatening events show Benedict and his assistant Chase that somebody still desperately wants to keep the sixty-year-old abandoned-ship puzzle tucked away in history’s mystery bins.

Naturally, the duo cannot turn down such a challenge. How--and why--could a small group of celebrities just disappear from a perfectly functioning observation ship? A couple of cross-galactic trips to the site where it happened yield contradictory clues. The vanished people’s descendants are weird enough to suggest scenarios that defy both science and logic.

Eventually the mystery is solved, in the midst of an almost offhand, implausibly polite group discussion. Soon afterwards, the evidence blows up. Or does it? Author Jack McDevitt leaves enough wiggle room to allow for a sequel.

Despite it’s frequent scenes from outer space, Polaris does not have the vast sweep or the sense of the infinite of McDevitt’s "big books" like Infinity Beach (2000) or Deepsix (2001). It is basically a mystery, and an intriguing one, but not a work of trail blazing ideas or science fiction adventure.