A Japanese cargo ship cruises the eastern Atlantic near the Azores - when it bursts into flames.
A gang of pirates speeds to take advantage of the disaster - when their boat explodes.
As Kurt Austin, Joe Zavala, and the rest of NUMA's Special Assignments Team rush to investigate, they find themselves drawn into the extraordinary ambitions of an African dictator, the creation of a weapon of almost mythical power, and an unimaginably audacious plan to extort the world's major nations.
Their penalty for refusal? The destruction of their greatest cities.
Reviewed on 14th January 2012
A new co-author joins Clive Cussler for the ninth book in the NUMA Files series, and seems to breath a little fresh life into the narrative. It's hard to explain the plot without feeling that I'm giving too much away, but when Kurt Austin accidentally discovers an unusual underwater source of magnetism it leads to far more adventure than expected.
The improvements in the book over its recent predecessors come in the characterisation. The team from NUMA, particularly the Trouts, feel much more real than before, and the bad guys and supporting cast all come across as having more depth to them than before.
There remain however a number of problems that seem to increase as the book goes on. The science starts off well but drifts further and further from accuracy as the plot develops. Additionally, minor facts are misportrayed - the length of a football pitch, the existence of a Russian politburo, CRT monitors - that make me doubt some of the things that I don't know about, particularly seafaring and weaponry.
There are also issues with the plot. There is one rather significant element that is never given an explanation. There are places where things are made to explicit - some speech can stand for itself without being re-explained afterwards. One character is talked about with familiarity for several chapters before the exposition that explains who he is, which made me feel I must have missed something. And finally the plot element that was blatantly stolen from a James Bond film.
Despite all this though I'm pleased with the fresh blood in writing these. I'm finding it harder to start Cussler's books and so it's increasingly nice when they turn out better than expected. I look forward to more from Graham Brown in six months.