Title: GHOST CRAB
Author Name: R. King Kollman
Word Count: 100,000
Latina lawyer Gianne Noble's specialty is high-profile murder, not missing persons. But she can't say no when the wife of the marine biologist who berths his boat in the slip next to hers begs for help. Gianne learns he disappeared the day the Deep Blue Rig blew, killed ten men, and spewed the second largest environmental catastrophe ever across the Gulf of Mexico. Yet he isn't listed among the dead. His wife and children get no insurance, no benefits, no answers.
Through the biologist's computer records, Gianne discovers that his life's work was studying the effects of the largest oil spill in the Gulf, twenty years before. That first disaster was an accident, but the scientist believed it cascaded into the extinction of a species of crab critical to the Gulf ecosystem. When he tried to convince anyone who would listen that the way drilling platforms are run needed to change to prevent another inevitable spill, no one paid any attention, and he only made himself an unwelcome crank everywhere he went. So to prove the biologist died on the rig and get needed benefits to his family, Gianne first must untangle an identity creation, not an identity theft, a complex alter ego the biologist fabricated to gain access to the rig to complete his data. Then she has to figure out which role he was playing when he died--scientist, ecoterrorist, or murder victim--before she disappears into the middle of the deep blue Gulf herself. And it will be no accident.
The Good: The plot is compelling and reminds me of Grisham--which is a good thing. The environmental disaster aspect also will get interest, given recent events.
Suggestions: I'm not sure that the "boat neighbor" link is compelling enough to make the pitch, and I don't think Gianne's ethnicity is relevant (I'd be turned off by "female lawyer" as a descriptor, too). "No insurance" and "no benefits" seem redundant--perhaps change one of them to "no closure?"
As for the second paragraph, there's a lot of extra information in there. It's GREAT in a plot, but TMI for a pitch. Boil down the first half to the meat: the biologist studied eco-disasters; he predicted something like the blow-up on the Deep Blue, and his advocacy for changes made him some powerful enemies. I wouldn't make an issue of the distinction between identity theft and identity creation in the pitch, but play up the fact that the biologist infiltrated the rig under an assumed identity. I like the "no accident" hook for the end, but I'd suggest slightly different wording to make give a sense of uncertainty, such as, "...and it might not be an accident."
This isn't my genre so I'm not any kind of expert, but my impression of this was simply of a compelling plot. I didn't get much of a sense of the characters or the narrative voice from this pitch.
BOTTOM LINE: Play the danger/cover-up/corruption/false identity/ecoterrorism aspects up. If you have strong character development and/or narrative voice that didn't come through here, try to bring a sense of them out in revisions.