Requiem Shark stands, with all other shark books, in the shadow of Peter Benchley's Jaws. Benchley published Jaws in 1974, and no one since has matched it, let alone topped it. Probably, Requiem Shark doesn't either, but it might come close, because it might be the first post-Jaws shark story that doesn't try to outdo the sheer scariness of Jaws--you won't find more sharks, or bigger sharks, or prehistoric sharks, or mutated sharks, or sharks genetically engineered by Nazi war criminals. What you will find is a story about a shark, and about some people whose lives become bound up with it, and a somewhat less sensational but perhaps more thoughtful version of what sharks and people have to do with one another than Benchley gave us in 1974. Near the end of his career Peter Benchley had become a student of ocean life and an advocate for conservation, and he said this about where the next shark story ought to go. "The shark in an updated Jaws," he said "could not be the villain; it would have to be written as the victim; for, worldwide, sharks are much more the oppressed than the oppressors." Requiem Shark doesn't try to top Jaws. It departs from it in a logical direction that its author hopes Benchley would approve, into our contemporary awareness of the importance of sharks and of all life in the sea to our own plight, and into our much greater knowledge, accumulated in part by Benchley himself over the 39 years since Jaws was published. The horror we all loved in Jaws of the tragic chance encounter between two species never intended to share territory is preserved. But the real story is about how much the people who pursue the shark have in common with it-kindred apex predators within their respective food chains, alike in their ultimately doomed struggles against even larger forces on the planet than themselves. The story goes something like this: When an old surfer is killed by a big bull shark off the Florida coast, an odd collection of footloose misfits is drawn to the beach where he died-two friends who served with him in Vietnam, two 30-something wildlife journalists drawn by the chance of a story to jumpstart their careers, and Kelli Ryder, a seventeen-year-old dropout with high school behind her and an uncertain future ahead, whose heroic attempt to take the shark's victim away from it makes front-page news. Together they become an uneasy and contentious fellowship on a mission of revenge or redemption or renewal-none of them is sure which. And as they set out aboard a barely seaworthy 45-foot research vessel to hunt sharks, Kelli's selfless courage and obdurate optimism rekindle long-extinguished fires in her older companions. She leads them on an odyssey down the Indian River Lagoon through one of the most diverse coastal ecosystems in the world, westward on the Okeechobee Waterway into a hurricane clawing its way ashore on the Gulf Coast, and onto a sun-blasted inland sea on the edge of the Everglades where together they confront-in the form of the very shark that Kelli has already faced once-their pasts, their problems, and their destinies.