This is a spellbinding book on a scuba diving drama that raises mixed emotions, as it combines a variety of topics and experiences and confronts the reader with a number of challenges. As the title implies, it is nominally about the last dive of Chris and Chrissie Rouse, a dare-devil father-and-son scuba dive team that perished in 1992 while trying to unlock the secrets of an undocumented German U-Boat laying at 230 feet of water about 60 miles off the New York/New Jersey coast.
The book definitely makes for fascinating reading. It reveals the lure and also the darker side of diving, provides plenty of insights, and tells a compelling story. It starts out with the fatal day where the Rouses, experienced cave and wreck divers and always pushing the envelope both as far as diving and interpersonal relations go, eventually found a tragic end. However, it does not pick up that thread until one of the final chapters, so you're essentially left hanging throughout the book which is filled with sort of a history of the Rouses' life and earlier experiences, including dives to the Andrea Doria. There is also plenty of ancillary information, such as experiences by the author himself, including a harrowing account of him incurring severe decompression sickness and how he recovered from it, a good deal of diving history, and bits and pieces of related information.
The uneven and somewhat disjointed character of the book continues in unexpectedly uneven quality of writing. The technical and historical parts are beyond reproach and very well written, providing a good deal of interesting information on the development of the sports. However, things are not nearly at the same literary level when it comes to describing the Rouses' lifes where there is plenty of repetition, inconsistency and irrelevant detail. Things deteriorate further when attempting to capture dialogue between parties, which is in quality several leagues below the tech aspects of the book. This truly needed a stronger editing effort.
An additional gripe: the author seems to have major size issues, never failing to point out if someone is, in his opinion overweight or otherwise physically lacking. Or how a man, a very competent cave diver, is expelled from an all-you-can-eat buffet for eating too much. Equally superfluous is repeated inclusion of personal opinions. Regulations as to who and when and by whom oxygen can be administered may be up for discussion, but it does not belong in this book.
Nonetheless, for those willing and able to see beyond the at times frustrating organization, uneven writing, repetition, and weakness in presenting supposed dialog, The Last Dive makes fascinating, emotional and disturbing reading. Especially towards the end it becomes difficult to put the book down.
-- C. H. Blickenstorfer