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.


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.