Who is in top form here, easily tying together Viking relics, a Confederate submarine, and a lost ship running on seawater...

VALHALLA RISING

The ever-kinetic Cussler brings back Dirk Pitt, who recently discovered the lost continent of Atlantis in Antarctica (Atlantis Found, 1999).

Cussler leaps in with what seem to be wildly parted storylines. Five hundred years before Columbus, Viking ships bearing 200 souls reach North American shores and attempt to set up a lasting colony, but the local natives kill them all except five women. In 1894, the old wooden-hulled warship Kearsarge finds and chases a strange metal monster, which proves to be a pointy-bowed submarine that turns, rams Kearsarge midship, and sinks it. Then, in the year 2003, the fabulous new cruise ship Emerald Dolphin, equipped with revolutionary engines that run on seawater and oil, catches fire while sailing the Caribbean on her maiden voyage. Someone has disabled the sprinkler system as well as the automatic doors designed to seal off the flames. Sighting the disaster from the nearby oceanographic survey vessel Deep Encounter, Dirk Pitt comes to rescue as many as possible of the 2,600 aboard the doomed ship. Then the abandoned Emerald Dolphin abruptly and mysteriously sinks. (“One minute she’s floating high in the water, the next she’s on her way to the bottom . . . ain’t natural,” says one old salt.) Maritime insurers hire Pitt to take Deep Encounter to the lost ship’s grave, send a submersible down 20,000 feet, and investigate the cause of the fire. But the wreck is not there! Later, pirates hijack Deep Encounter and steam off, signing the death warrants of Pitt, sidekick Al Giordino, and marine biologist Misty Graham, who rise in the submersible to find no mother ship in sight. Fortunately, they're rescued by a luxurious modern catamaran on a solo world voyage captained by a crusty old coot named . . . Clive Cussler!!!

Who is in top form here, easily tying together Viking relics, a Confederate submarine, and a lost ship running on seawater as Pitt’s past rises up to claim him.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14787-X

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless...

SPLIT SECOND

Two defrocked Secret Service Agents investigate the assassination of one presidential candidate and the kidnapping of another.

Baldacci (The Christmas Train, 2002, etc.) sets out with two plot strands. The first begins when something distracts Secret Service Agent Sean King and during that “split second,” presidential candidate Clyde Ritter is shot dead. King takes out the killer, but that’s not enough to save his reputation with the Secret Service. He retires and goes on to do often tedious but nonetheless always lucrative work (much like a legal thriller such as this) at a law practice. Plot two begins eight years later when another Secret Service Agent, Michelle Maxwell, lets presidential candidate John Bruno out of her sight for a few minutes at a wake for one of his close associates. He goes missing. Now Maxwell, too, gets in dutch with the SS. Though separated by time, the cases are similar and leave several questions unanswered. What distracted King at the rally? Bruno had claimed his friend’s widow called him to the funeral home. The widow (one of the few characters here to have any life) says she never called Bruno. Who set him up? Who did a chambermaid at Ritter’s hotel blackmail? And who is the man in the Buick shadowing King’s and Maxwell’s every move? King is a handsome, rich divorce, Maxwell an attractive marathon runner. Will they join forces and find each other kind of, well, appealing? But of course. The two former agents traverse the countryside, spinning endless hypotheses before the onset, at last, of a jerrybuilt conclusion that begs credibility and offers few surprises.

Assembly-line legal thriller: flat characters, lame scene-setting, and short but somehow interminable action: a lifeless concoction.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2003

ISBN: 0-446-53089-1

Page Count: 406

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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