When Joseph Van Dorn is shot and nearly killed while in pursuit of a rum-running vessel, his friend and employee, Isaac Bell, swears to him that he will hunt down the lawbreakers. But Bell doesn't know what he is getting into. When a witness to the shooting is executed in a manner peculiar to the Russian secret police, it becomes clear that these were no ordinary bootleggers.
Reviewed on 31st March 2014
Back to Isaac Bell's 'present' of 1930s prohibition-era America, as the private detective is drawn into investigating some smugglers which turn tangentially into a barely explained and somewhat difficult to follow plot to take over the world.
The attitudes of some of the characters feel quite anachronistic, particularly in relation to prohibition, though I freely admit to knowing very little about the period of American history. This makes the novel feel slightly silly in its approach, as the characters' morals seem to change from scene to scene. Some of the minor characters that are introduced seem really interesting at first but then are followed up weakly - the book could easily have benefited by exploring them more.
The plot starts well, dealing with issues of the time and feeling like the events a detective agency would be involved in, but then I think it goes over the top and starts to move beyond believability. I know it's listed as a thriller and that's what Cussler is known for, but the whole setup seems to beg more for a mystery story. As it is, the audience are aligned with the baddies far too much and so there's little in the way of tension as we know pretty much how things are going down ahead of time.
One exception was the climax, where the book seemed to be setting up one form of showdown but then gave something that I felt was rushed and weaker. Overall, I could say it was a little disappointing, but actually it's more of a surprise now when I really enjoy a Cussler novel, so I suppose this is now just standard.