While scuba diving in Tanzania, Sam and Remi Fargo come upon a relic belonging to a long-lost Confederate ship. An anomaly about the relic sets them off chasing a mystery - but unknown to them, a much more powerful force is engaged in the same chase. Mexico's ruling party, the ultranationalist Mexica Tenochca, is intent on finding that artefact as well, because it contains a secret that could destroy the party utterly.
Reviewed on 7th January 2011
Cussler and Blackwood's second adventure in the Fargo series is roughly on a par with the first - a blight on the Cussler name, and if he keeps putting his name on these mediocre efforts they will seriously damage his reputation as 'grandmaster of adventure'.
This story sees married adventurers Sam and Remi investigate a submerged bell, which leads them on a preposterous Aztec treasure hunt trailed by agents of the Mexican government. The plot, while bearing resemblance to Cussler's frequent alternative history theme, is poorly executed and relies on pilot coincidence upon coincidence to solve the puzzle.
The narrative moves slowly at first, spending much of the first half in a strange diversion that almost seems like it has been added just to pad out the length. From halfway though the pace picks up rapidly and accelerates to a point near the end where what should be a tension filled 24 hours is reduced to a couple of pages.
Stylistically too, the direction switches suddenly halfway, from purely narrative to one punctuated by hard to see illustrations of documents relevant to the story.
The main characters are still weak. Their rapport, while probably designed to make them feel more like a couple, seems fake and cheesy, and their background and wealth is just unbelievably fantastic to the point where it interferes with the suspension of disbelief. The minor characters and indeed the bad guys are barely fleshed out at all, with the exception of Selma, who is nevertheless still a stereotype.
Overall, there is still a good concept behind the novel - I'm just disappointed with the execution and feel that this story could have made a much better story if the Cussler of old had written it to star Dirk Pitt.