The Cutthroat by Clive Cussler

Isaac Bell is the main character in a series of Clive Cussler branded books. Co-written with Jason Scott, the series features the adventures of detectives with the Van Dorn Detective agency, modeled after the Pinkertons. The Pinkertons always got their man, the Van Dorns never give up. Mid 19th century high technology always plays a big part in the Isaac Bell novels – steam trains, the telegraph, flying machines and radio all come into play.

The premise of this tale is that London’s Jack the Ripper did not die as claimed by Scotland Yard, but rather found his or her way to the good old USA where he/she continued slashing throats. Taking advantage of the Van Dorn Agencies broad reach in the USA, Isaac Bell uncovers a pattern in the murders of young woman across the country. He appeals to his boss to let him travel to England to pursue further leads and concludes that the location of certain US murders corresponds to the path taken by a theater production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as it tours the US by rail.

Undercover, Bell arranges to become an ‘angel’ offering to fund the production of a film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as it wraps ups it’s cross country tour in L.A. Bell’s sweetie Marion is a budding film producer with some creds, so she and Bell hitch the Van Dorn luxury rail car to the Jekyll and Hyde production train and work to suss out who the evil doer is. The dramatic conclusion takes place on the movie set with Bell and the evil doer locked in a deadly saber duel.

Of all the Clive Cussler / Isaac Bell series I have read (and I’ve read them all), this one appealed to me least. Perhaps it was the emphasis on ‘theater’, or the paucity of venues, or character development that didn’t really work for me, or the fact the Jack the Ripper has been done to tatters, but I was disappointed. I mean to say the train visited a lot of cities, but then straight to the theater or back to the train, so not much attendant travel log or interesting local color. Did I want to keep reading? I read two other books in the middle of reading this one, so not so much.


Pirate: Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

Pirate is Clive Cussler’s latest, a Sam and Remi Fargo adventure, co-authored by Robin Burcell. As Cussler fans know, Mr. Cussler is lead writer of many of his books, Cusslerizing the writing of others well know for works of their own. Grant Blackwood, Russell Blake, Robin Burcell, and Thomas Perry have all co-authored one or more of the Fargo’s adventures.

Pirate is a treasure hunting tale featuring the Fargos, a wealthy husband and wife team with a knack for research and the discovery of long lost treasures. Funds are never a problem for the globetrotting Fargos.  Back at the ranch in La Jolla, they employ a research team with access to fabulous resources, with Selma Wondrash as the lead researcher, booker of travel arraignments and general go-to person who lubes the way for the Fargo’s success. Fargo adventures share a sense of light banter and by-play between the Fargos that makes the stories a bit softer than other Cussler series books.

The tale opens with a version of the story of the loss of King John’s treasure, a vast fortune in valuables, coins and crown jewels. This sets the stage for the hunt. We meet the Fargos in San Francisco’s China Town where they are searching for a copy of Pyrates and Privateers at Pickering’s Used and Rare Books. Immediately, they are confronted by a minion of Charles Avery, a corporate raider, salvage expert and all-around bad guy who also is searching for King Johns treasure.

As is typical in the Fargo adventures, Sam and Remi bounce from one spot on the globe to another running down clues at the sharp end of the stick, feeding Selma info she synthesizes into practical next steps. In Pirate, they hit Jamaica, Oak Island off of Halifax, Snake Island off Brazil, and Great Britain in their search for King John’s treasure. The Fargos find themselves one step behind Charles Avery most of the time.

The exciting conclusion occurs underground (as is often the case in Clive Cussler’s stories), this time in caves under the city of London. There they fight a final battle with the evil Charles Avery and his troops and of course, find the treasure.

Another in the long series (17 to be precise) of Clive Cussler’s New York Times best sellers, this is an action packed adventure studded with bits of history, geography and light romance between the Fargos. Did I want to keep reading? Yes!

Pirate by Clive Cussler at Book Shop

Clive Cussler at Book Shop

Mystery Adventure Fiction at Book Shop

Clive Cussler’s latest book from the Oregon series: The Emperor’s Revenge

Another of the Oregon files series co written with Boyd Morrison, this is a rip-roaring high-tech tale of adventure on the high seas with the crew of the Oregon. If you don’t know the series, the Oregon is a tramp steamer which has a rough, rusty, neglected appearance up top but fitted with the latest of navel high tech, armament and luxury accommodation below decks by a rogue Russian shipyard.

The Corporation, which operates the Oregon is a loose band of professionals whose makeup changes to fit the latest project. At times, skills include communications, computer hacking, deep sea diving and submersibles, a four star culinary chef, explosives experts, a document and cover shop, chopper and drone piloting and of course boat driving. The Corporation takes on projects from those who can afford the bill, but retains a strong sense of being on the good-guy side of things. The players take the projects on spec for a cut of the profit.

A band of very sophisticated Russian bad guys have their eye on plunging the European economy into chaos by damaging key elements of the power grid in Europe to cause a cascade failure of the grid. They have their own top notch hacker who opens the game by denying access to account holders at the Monaco bank where the Corporation has its considerable resources. Of course, this cannot stand.

Where does the Emperor come in? The emperor in question is Napoleon Bonaparte. During his Russian campaign, Napoleon drove the world’s largest standing army to Moscow but the Russians employed their infamous scorched earth policy: destroy shelter and food to deny Napoleon’s army any forage and the Russian winter would defeat him. He retreated with a tiny fraction of his troops through Lithuania.  The Russians did leave behind treasure, however, and Napoleon’s horse troops carried it out, hiding it somewhere along the retreat route.

A parallel story emerges as NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency – another of Mr. Cussler’s mainstays) gets wind of the existence of Napoleon’s diary (which is written in Greek and in code). NUMA becomes aware of a Rosetta Stone like obelisk to decode the diary and there is a race between the good guys and the bad guys to be in possession of the diary and the obelisk so as to identify the location of the buried treasure.

As sophisticated as the good guy’s armament is, the bad guy’s ship is even better armed.  Their war ship sports a steerable laser capable of taking an aircraft out of the sky and a rail gun that launches devastating projectiles fifteen miles at 6000 miles per hour. So when they meet on the high seas, it’s tactics that win the day. The good guy’s find themselves one step behind all the way, victims of indirection and careful planning by the bad guys.

The ending is dramatic and split second close. Did I want to keep reading? Oh yeah.


The Emperor’s Revenge             Clive Cussler – $14.50

Clive Cussler at the Book Shop

Mystery Adventure fiction at the Book Shop

Clive Cusslers latest Isaac Bell adventure, The Gangster


Welcome to Clive Cussler’s latest tale, The Gangster. Co-written with Justin Scott, this book is an Isaac Bell adventure. Isaac Bell is a private detective working for the legendary Van Dorn Agency (like the Pinkerton’s of that era).

The story starts with young Isaac and his friends joyriding in a steam locomotive. This is to suggest Mr. Bell’s daring-do and his mastery of the day’s technology. The adult Isaac Bell is a smooth but very tough character who is relentless in his pursuit of bad guys.

In The Gangster, the bad guys are an organization called the Black Hand. They do typical gangster stuff, such as collecting protection money, but are escalating to dynamite as the tool of choice to persuade victims to capitulate. A group of victims has banded together to pay Van Dorn to run the Black Hander’s to ground.

There is a lot of travel by rail since the technology of the day was the steel highway, and not the information highway. With Justin Scott, there are lots of steam engines, vintage automobiles, fledgling aircraft, and telegraphing. These are techno-thrillers, just not the technology you are used to.

The Cussler/Justin Scott Van Dorn Agency adventures are action packed, fast paced and full of glorious exploits on the part of Mr. Bell. The Van Dorn motto is “We Never Give Up”, and they never do.

The Gangster is the ninth Isaac Bell adventure from Cussler/Justin Scott. I love Cussler’s stuff and have read it all.



Clive Cussler’s latest: The Pharaoh’s Secret

If you are a Clive Cussler fan, this is a NUMA series adventure starring Kurt Austin that turns around geology and hydrology in the Middle East. Austin is called to investigate when a shipwreck off a small island releases gas that drifts across the island and places the inhabitants in a state of suspended animation.

Clues at the scene point to North Africa as a likely source of the (not quite) deadly gas, but other problems are cropping up around in countries dependent upon the Saharan aquifer for water supply. Surface water and wells throughout Northern Africa which have been viable for millennia have suddenly failed and States are in turmoil as population centers go dry.

Kurt Austin and his NUMA team split up to uncover an evil scheme to de-water the Saharan aquifer and sow instability in the Middle East while keeping  an eye peeled for the antidote against the (not quite) deadly gas.

In the end there is much dashing around in a maze of tunnels 400 feet under the “City of the Dead” at Giza as Kurt Austin and his team work to defeat the nefarious foes who are at the center of the de-watering scheme and the (not quite) deadly gas.

I personally love the geology and hydrology aspects of the NUMA files series, so this book is another winner for me. Kurt Austin is a bit James Bondish, but given that, there is always something new to learn and there is plenty of action to make you want to keep turning pages.


Clive Cussler – The Solomon Curse

In Clive Cussler’s latest, the wealthy husband and wife treasure hunting team Sam and Remi Fargo are at it again, this time in Guadalcanal. Are gold and jewels to be found in a sunken city, or in jungle caverns haunted by a race of legendary giants? Why have the islands children been disappearing and what of the chaos as ambitious islanders vie for control of the economy.

A key character in these novels is researcher Selma, who, back at the ranch, pulls crucial data from her many resources just in the nick of time for Sam and Remi to put it to use.

Sam and Remi seem to forget that every time they enter a: cave, underground river, temple, ruin, or portal of any kind it invariably collapses behind them, forcing them to squeeze through tiny passages whilst holding their breath looking for another exit.

Typically Cussler, the Fargo series focuses on geography, geology, history, exploration and scuba diving. These are delightful reads and one always learns something new.

Clive Cussler at BookShop Sioux Falls

The Solomon Curse at BookShop Sioux Falls



August Markdowns: Mystery/Adventure

Hardcover and paperback, $1-$3.


If you’re like me, your favorite authors just don’t write fast enough to keep you satisfied, so you always need to find MORE favorites.  Markdowns are the perfect way to try out some new authors…..CHEAP!

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