By Reviewed by David and Nancy Beckwith
By Clive Cussler and Justin Scott
G.P. Putnam's Sons, $27.95
'The Race" is the fourth book in the Isaac Bell series. This series takes place in the early 20th century. Although the setting of the novels is so long ago, the books could be considered techno-thrillers because they feature advanced technologies of their time such as railroads, dreadnought battle ships, aeroplanes, telegraphs and telephones.
In "The Race," the world of aviation is vividly covered in an action-packed adventure, starring of course Isaac Bell, chief investigator for the Van Dorn Detective Agency. The story begins with a prologue describing Bell's first encounter with the rogue character, Harry Frost, in Chicago in 1899.
Some 10 years later, the Van Dorn Agency of detectives has been hired to protect Frost's ex-wife, Josephine, whose now rich and dangerous former husband has vowed he will go to any lengths to kill her -- and anyone else who gets in his way. And Bell, the dashing gentleman detective, is chosen to protect the plucky heroine Josephine, sweetheart of the skies, as she embarks on the first cross-country race of aeroplanes in the 20th century.
A wealthy newspaper magnate, Preston Whiteway, is sponsoring this 50-day aerial race from New York to San Francisco when aviation is in its infancy. The only female in the race is this young farm girl and avid flyer, Josephine Frost. Of course, it is difficult enough to protect someone on the ground from a murderous ex-husband but when the ex-wife is aloft in an aeroplane, a whole new set of challenges presents itself.
Compounding the situation is the fact that Harry Frost, a giant of a man, motivated by a psychotic state of mind and with the financial wherewithal to move freely about the country, has criminal contacts almost everywhere. Isaac Bell and the entire Van Dorn Detective Agency have to deal with a monumental task.
The challenge takes the Van Dorn detectives and the reader from New York to California with murder, intrigue and excitement at all stops in-between. It's a race against time and weather conditions and sabotage. The author's attention to period detail, all things mechanical and early aviation make 100 years ago come alive.
Typical of Cussler, "The Race" provides high-octane thrills, chases by land and sea and air, damsels in distress, some really hardened criminals and very complex but intriguing characters well wrapped in plots and subplots. Airplanes fall from the sky because they fail from pilot error, poor design, sabotage or equipment fatigue. There's a thrill on every page. Cussler and Scott write like they love it and enjoy the process.
Clive Cussler began his writing career in 1965 with the Dirk Pitt novel series, which now totals 21 books. Between his National Underwater and Marine Agency files (a foundation he started) and Oregon Files, he has written 19 more books, authored three Fargo series adventures and two children's books. He has written four books in the Isaac Bell series ("The Chase," "The Wrecker," "The Spy" and "The Race") and has a fifth one coming out in March this year.
As an underwater explorer, Cussler has discovered more than 60 shipwreck sites, including some well-known vessels like the Carpathia, the Mary Celeste and the Manassas
Justin Scott, co-author of the Bell series, is also a well-known author of more than 25 thrillers and mystery novels. He's said that he enjoys working with Clive Cussler and that their relationship is "collegial" -- he's "less the gnarly lone wolf" Cussler considers himself to be.