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by Clive Cussler and Dick Cussler
Penguin, October 2009
592 pages
6.99 GBP
ISBN: 0141038918

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This is the 20th book in the Dirk Pitt series of adventure novels, and the 3rd co-authored with Cussler's son, Dirk, after whom the novels' protagonist was named. To my lasting shame, I appear to have read all of them.

The book begins in Cussler's usual fashion with an historical digression into the final days of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition which set out find the North-West Passage and became trapped in the ever-shifting ice. This provides both an interesting opening and the set-up for the remainder of the book.

On this occasion, Pitt, now running NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency), has a narrow escape from an explosion in a laboratory and rapidly concludes that sabotage was involved. The lab was involved in work to develop an artificial photosynthesis process, which depends on a raw material which of course is now rarer than hen's teeth. Pitt goes in search of mineral against the backdrop of a threatened war between the United States and Canada which is spiralling out of control due to the escalating energy crisis in the US.

A sub-plot involves Pitt's children, Dirk (referred to by his first name to distinguish him from his father) and Summer and their oceanographic research expedition; however the children invariably prove to be less well-drawn and interesting than their father and these parts of the book are not particularly memorable.

Devotees of the series will probably find this an entertaining romp, and the quality of the writing doesn't differ markedly from earlier tales in the series, although I did find the supporting cast of the likes of Pitt's sidekick Al Giordino, computer expert Hiram Yaeger and even old-favourite Admiral James Sandeker to be little more than caricatures of their former selves.

The book also contains what has become by now an inevitable cameo appearance by Clive Cussler himself. I found this even more irritating than usual here, as Cussler now appears to fulfill a sort of deus ex machina role whereby he imparts useful information to our hero to advance the plot. The fact that Pitt never has more than a vague feeling of having seen the character somewhere before simply turns this plot device into an irritating and self-indulgent conceit on the part of the main author.

The books remain relatively shallow and formulaic, although they clearly retain the loyalty of many fans. However, I think I have now finally reached the stage where I will no longer actively seek them out, particularly if Pitt's children are increasingly taking centre-stage.

Reviewed by Linda Wilson, January 2010

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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