Authors Clive Cussler and Justin Scott are titans of transportation-themed novels and return to their maritime forte in the third Isaac Bell historical thriller, following a railway coup d’état with the Wrecker.
“By 1908, the Van Dorn Detective Agency maintained a presence in all American cities of consequence.” Protagonist Isaac Bell is that agency’s super-sleuth, where countless private detectives are known simply as Van Dorns. Though the titular spy always seems a step ahead, Bell uses old-fashioned cunning to deduce where the spy will strike next and get into his mindset. Or is it her? Red-herring hints bait readers along the way. When Bell suggests that Mademoiselle Duvall may be the spy, fiancée Marion Morgan says, “A spy? She’s such a flibbertigibbet.”
Racing to construct a 600-foot dreadnought during embryonic rumblings of world war, England, Germany and Japan join the race, while America constructs the Michigan: “[O]ur newest battleship will have the best gun arrangement in the world.” Captain Lowell Falconer thrills Bell with details about battleships, including the HMS Dreadnought. “Hull 44 is my response. America’s response.” But with super dreadnoughts under construction, Bell links rumors of mysterious “Hull 44” to suspicious deaths of those who work on the project. While investigating, he holes up in New York’s prestigious Knickerbocker Hotel and tells his main office, “Put it on the cuff ’til we figure who the client is.”
For Bell, money is no object; he inherited a whopping five million dollars in the day of nickel shoe-shines and subway rides, and “shave and a haircut, two bits.” Bell’s tricked-out Locomobile clips along at a mile a minute.
Of a more sinister note, vile “Iceman” sets his sights on Bell’s death. A lethal lancehead viper is displayed at the fancy Cumberland Hotel, where its “$2.50-a-night room fee ought to keep out the riffraff.” But even the Knickerbocker can’t keep “the Sudden Death” out of Bell&r