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

Thomas Perry’s Metzger’s Dog

We meet Dr. Henry Metzger as he is dropped unceremoniously from (where else?) a catwalk onto the head of a burglar in Chinese Gordon’s machine shop. Dr. Henry is a cat. Later in the book, Dr. Henry adopts a very large dog, thus the book’s title.

Chinese Gordon is a talented machinist who is just wrapping up building a full size working model of an M-39-A1 20mm automatic aircraft cannon which he mounts in his van.  We ride out to the desert with Chinese and his crew to test the weapon during which he destroys a junk car with a burst of high explosive ammo. So we know Chinese Gordon is well armed if you happen to be behind his van.

Chinese Gordon stumbles across the fact that one million dollars worth of confiscated cocaine has been donated to a nearby university for medical studies and offers to get it back to its previous owner (for a fee). While this burglary is taking place, Chinese scoops up a box of papers in the only locked file cabinet in the room – just because.

The papers turn out to be psych ops planning intended to throw (name your location) into chaos by exploiting local cultural beliefs and disrupting key infrastructure. Enter the CIA stage left. The CIA commissioned the psych-ops, but does not wish to be associated with this fact and really wants the papers back. Chinese Gordon sees this as a money making opportunity and seeks international bids for his find.

Chinese decides to take a page from the psych-ops to develop and deploy a plan to block the freeways in LA, destroy the phone switching center and cause public transit workers to strike. The CIA is not happy, but agrees to pay. Unfortunately the offer for payment is in bad faith and so a second rendezvous is arraigned which takes place in Palm Springs at night (also in bad faith) which fails as well.   Much confusion goes on under the hood at the CIA and heads explode.

Metzger’s Dog is Thomas Perry’s second book (1983) and like other Perry books is full of tradecraft. Chinese Gordon and his crew plot out their moves with much more subtlety than their opponents and the story careens ahead from one clever but outrageous proposal to the next. Tons of action with a large dose of whimsy.


Just when you thought it was safe to come out…

Perry’s bad guy has no name. We never get beyond personal pronouns. Elizabeth is an FBI agent assigned to catch this bad guy. The bad guy is a professional assassin with mad skills.

Tradecraft is huge in Perry novels and this one is no exception. The bad guy has to have some serious moves to go through locked doors like butter and to put hemlock drops in soaking dentures. The bad guy, the Butcher’s Boy is slick and quick and you like him for his moves.

Of course the FBI lady knows stuff too, but she is always afraid for her job and hamstrung by compartmented communication so that she often acts in an absence of information. It seems Elizabeth never really knows for sure what is going on right up to the last page so the books feels chaotic for her character.

The action yo-yo’s between the taut, oh so carefully planned high risk moves of the Butcher’s Boy and Elizabeth’s flashes of insight and attempts to move the investigation forward. But her efforts are muffled by the good guys as much as the bad guys. And you’d think, by now, everyone would know: It’s a bad idea to stiff a hired assassin.

Butcher’s Boy is Perry’s first book and one of three in the ‘Butcher’s Boy’ series. Perry has published several series, notably the eight volume Jane Whitfield series. He is a contributing writer with Clive Cussler’s  ‘Fargos’ series.