SACRED STONE is the second of the Oregon Files novels. The Oregon, to the uninitiated, is a state-of-the-art warship disguised as a down-at-the heels tramp steamer that is manned by a first-rate assortment of former military and special forces operatives, who collectively are known as The Corporation, or "mercenaries with a conscience." The chairman of the Corporation, and nominally the focal point of the series, is Juan Cabrillo, a go-to, can-do, hands-on guy who combines the derring-do of James Bond with the inventiveness of Bill Gates.
Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo, collaborators on the Oregon books, have crafted another winner. SACRED STONE actually begins in the year 1000 A.D. with the discovery by Eric the Red of a dangerously radioactive meteorite. Eric the Red commissions a shrine for the object, with deadly results for the laborers pressed into service for the project. The object lays undisturbed for 1,000 years until its discovery by an archeologist --- a discovery that sets off a race between two forces who wish to use the still-radioactive artifact for nefarious purposes. One is a radical Islamic cleric who wants to use the meteorite with a stolen nuclear device to destroy the city of London. The other is a British billionaire industrialist who wants to combine the meteorite with his industrial know-how to destroy Islam. Cabrillo, who is already busy providing security for a Mideast leader, must prevent both factions from succeeding.
Cussler and Dirgo do a magnificent job of keeping things moving right along plot-wise, while dropping all sorts of scientific, historical and military factoids along the way so that the reader doesn't feel too guilty about reading a first-rate thriller in lieu of loftier, less interesting literature. The authors also thoughtfully provide a "Cast of Characters" to assist the reader in keeping some fifty-odd different individuals straight.
While SACRED STONE does not aspire to be great literature, it is, indeed, a great novel, an absorbing, riveting and entertaining work that is almost impossible to put down. This one is not be missed, particularly by fans of espionage and adventure. And that's just about everyone, isn't it?
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 23, 2011