Prolific author Clive Cussler presents another Sam and Remi Fargo adventure in THE KINGDOM. The treasure hunters are relaxing from their latest quest when they receive an urgent call for help from Texas oil billionaire Charles King, who summons them for a meeting. He has lost contact with an adventurer he has hired to locate his missing father, a risk-taker and an archaeologist who has searched for an Asian relic for 15 years. Frank Alton, the missing bounty hunter, is a close friend of the Fargos. Sam and Remi agree to take on the search but quickly realize that King's objectives may be contrary to their own.
THE KINGDOM, like earlier novels in the series, blends ancient history with a modern appetite for knowledge. Treasure hunting has never been more enjoyable.
Cussler's unique style introduces a historic event before the modern-day treasure hunters come into his story. In ancient China, a devoted group of sentinels split ways, each to his own destiny. All four hold the charge of protecting a cube-shaped chest that contains the Theurang, or a facsimile of it. One chest holds the key to an entire civilization, now under siege by its enemies. At the brink of a gigantic waterfall, the sentinel Dhakal made his stand. Plunging over the edge of the deep precipice and into the roiling water below, the man, his horse and its precious cargo dove into centuries of anonymity.
When Sam and Remi search the elder King's abandoned house in California, they discover papers that indicate his passion for the lost Theurang and the culture's secrets it holds. He had disappeared on a trek for the relics. But why would Alton be missing as well? The Fargos question the sincerity of their employer's motives and are especially curious after meeting his children, Russell and Marjorie, who offer their help. In Nepal, the twins stick to the Fargos like glue. For reasons unknown, Daddy King is orchestrating the details of this trip. Sam and Remi play along with the spoiled ocean-hopping duo until they find an opportunity to strike out alone in their own rented vehicle.
The prologue is the tale of the forgotten civilization that becomes an obsession for the missing men. King's livelihood in the oil business provides funds for a lucrative stolen fossil business. His mistress and mother of the twins, Zhilan Hsu, gives the story the mystique of a deadly Asian serpent, coiled and ready to strike at the word of her lover. She continues to foil the Fargos during their travels from California to Nepal and, finally, into China.
Secondary characters round out the cast, allowing some amusement. Selma Wondrash works for the Fargos as their chief researcher and guru of many subjects. With a slight Hungarian accent, she's in constant contact with the couple via the modern electronic components necessary to study and research from distant locales. An inadvertent relationship blossoms over the Internet between Selma and Jack Karna, an anthropology expert who joins the Fargos in solving the King mystery. Karna and Selma exchange information and pleasantries when they collaborate. Their side story adds a bit of light drama. Karna facilitates the final trek into China in an attempt to solve the riddle hidden in the sacred box the Fargos have found.
Cussler provides action in many forms, and Sam and Remi appear to live the legendary nine-plus lives of cats. They escape flying bullets, freezing glacial temperatures, tangling jungle undergrowth, diving helicopters, Chinese military commandos, King's cunning, his lethal mistress and children, and flaming explosions. Adventure is packed with non-stop complications that resolve only by the sheerest ingenuity and a bit of luck. Neither Fargo overshadows the other in confidence or ability --- their abilities complement one another, nearly to perfection. When Remi sustains an injury, she somehow manages to overcome her attacker; the same happens for Sam simultaneously. A bit of "too good to be true" seems to be but a minor criticism.
Whether Cussler writes alone or with another author, the same themes run true in the Fargo Adventure stories. THE KINGDOM, like earlier novels in the series, blends ancient history with a modern appetite for knowledge. Treasure hunting has never been more enjoyable.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on July 4, 2011