Isaac Bell, the tall and handsome Chief Investigator for the Van Dorn Detective Agency, leads his team in their latest adventure. In 1910, flying machines are coming into their own element and rising in popularity. Newspaper publishing magnate Preston Whiteway is sponsoring a coast-to-coast 50-day air race, and the prize for the winner will net $50,000. Whiteway sponsors young female aviatrix Josephine Josephs Frost, who is daring and confident in her ability to fly. The Van Dorn Agency is hired to protect Whiteway's progeny from her crazed husband, gangster Harry Frost. Frost has murdered Josephine's airplane designer, Marco Celere, in a hunting accident. Enraged with jealousy, Frost believes that his feisty young wife is having an affair with her mechanician. Now he is on the run but is determined to kill his wife.
"THE RACE transports [readers] into the air, to experience the exhilaration of early air travel, the pains and joys accompanying such flight."
Bell looks forward to a confrontation with Frost, to right a wrong from 10 years earlier when Frost had killed three newsboys in cold blood and escaped, besting Bell as a novice investigator. Frost boasts enormous personal strength and will prove difficult to bring down. Besides, Frost has amassed wealth and resources for carrying out the destruction he desires. Gangs of thugs are at his command for the right price.
To further complicate matters, Whiteway falls for Josephine and wishes to annul her marriage and make her his own wife. A mysterious Russian mechanician remains in the camp of flyers working on the various planes in the race. Soon flyers run into sabotaged aircraft, with deadly accidents becoming a norm. Bell learns to fly a monoplane made by the same technique as Josephine's. He has met the daughter of the inventor who might be credited for developing Josephine's plane. She has been incarcerated for the attempted murder of Celere.
Bell is still under order to protect Josephine. From the air, he can follow her, protecting with guns above any ground threat. Meanwhile, his crews below can watch for Frost and any attempts to kill her or threaten her machine. Bell has technical crews researching backgrounds of the Russian, Celere and Frost. As the race progresses, Bell discovers more loose ends that do not connect. He is more and more convinced that Celere did not die in the hunting accident. Perhaps the mechanic and Josephine are in love and plotting to eliminate her competitors. When Whiteway proposes to her, why does she accept?
Clive Cussler and Justin Scott have kept the action lively, with the notion that Van Dorn detectives never give up. Bell remains cool in the face of numerous complications, giving justification to his standing as Chief Investigator for Van Dorn. Bell's love interest lies with his beautiful fiancee, Marion Morgan, who is a skilled photographer. She is contracted to play up the publicity for the great aviation race for Whiteway and will accompany him in San Francisco at the end of the race.
Not only have the co-authors enlivened the story, they also introduce aviation techniques common in the early industry. Readers will be enlightened by the mechanics of the first flying machines, with an introduction to the techniques of flight itself. We also see through the early fliers' eyes insight into possibilities for aviation's future. Unlike Cussler's other series books exploring the ocean, THE RACE transports his audience into the air, to experience the exhilaration of early air travel, and the pains and joys accompanying such flight.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on September 30, 2011