Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BOOKS: The Wrecker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott

Clive Cussler has developed a cottage industry over the last few years. He's leveraged his work creating and detailing the exploits of Dirk Pitt and Kurt Austin into at least three more on-going series, each of which has a co-author. How much do they help in the book-churning machine that is Cussler these days? I have no idea. But I will tell you that I enjoy the Isaac Bell series co-written with Justin Scott and The Oregon Files books co-written with Craig Dirgo and Jack DuBrul more these days then the on-going Pitt and Austin series. Part of that is because Cussler doesn't actually APPEAR in the newer series. Yet.

The tome at hand in this entry is The Wrecker, the second of the Isaac Bell books. Bell is of the mold of a Pinkerton agent at the turn of the 20th century. The first book in the series, The Chase, was a crackerjack yarn built largely around the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. This book is from a year later as the railways continue to spider their way across America, connecting sea to sea and north to south. Cussler and Scott wax intimately about trains to a degree matched by Cussler's love of all things marine. I suspect Scott might be the driving force here.

The Wrecker can be read with having earlier read The Chase. The Wrecker as a character, is a nasty guy, bent on becoming the major domo over the transportation system critical to the American Way of Life. It takes a few chapters before we know who's behind The Wrecker persona, as he personally sends more than a few trains to their crashing demise, mostly with lots of lost life. When the mask is removed, we discover he's a well-connected man in the entourage of railman Oswald Hennessy. It's Hennessy who hires Bell amd his Van Dorn Agency to figure out who's trying to destroy him and his operation. And to stop the crimes.

From coast to coast, Bell and his operatives foil most further attempts by The Wrecker to destroy Hennessy's company. It all comes to a head in Oregon, where a just-finished trestle is the scene of the 'final' showdown between Bell and The Wrecker.

I put the quotes around 'final' because this IS a Cussler book. There is a framing sequence that starts the book and ends it, far, far, away from Oregon and years away from the dramatic events of that showdown. It's absolutely, perfectly Cusslerian in concept and execution.

Evaluating this book is easy. It's one of Cussler's best of the last five years. Top-notch thriller writing.

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