The early-20th century finds the Van Dorn Detective Agency’s chief investigative officer, Isaac Bell, and partner Archie Abbott on board the luxury ocean liner Mauretania. They hold a Wall Street stock swindler in protective custody until they get to his trial in New York. Abbott’s wife, Lillian, enjoys the voyage as does Bell’s long-time fiancée, Miss Marion Morgan, a hard-working moving picture director. The two men secretly plan Bell’s marriage on board the ship --- a surprise for his fiancée.
"Clive Cussler and Justin Scott weave a fast-paced tale with a believable play on facts in the days prior to World War I.... The authors portray Isaac Bell as a genuine humanitarian as well as an accomplished private detective, and readers grow with his character both professionally and personally.
While thinking about the plans, Bell hears and sees a motorboat alongside the ship flashing a coded signal. From behind, he hears a scuffle as three big men force two smaller fellows to the ship’s rail. Bell explodes into action and engages a superhuman target bent on his destruction. A knife flashes and the fighting intensifies, but Bell eliminates the two attackers. His adventure has begun.
The two injured men are Professor Franz Beiderbecke and his helper, Clyde Lynds. Lynds thinks they have been attacked by a German munitions trust, Krieg Rustungswerk GmbH, who is plotting to steal the Professor’s secret invention. The attempt is the second in recent days. Bell assumes that the invention is some sort of war machine that the German Kaiser plans to employ in his army. Arthur Curtis, a Van Dorn agent in Berlin, receives Bell’s telegram and sets to work investigating the two scientists and the munitions trust.
Meanwhile, on board theMauretania, wedding plans progress. The happy couple celebrates with the majority of first- and second-class passengers as guests at their nuptials. During the reception, Lynds rushes up to tell Bell that he cannot locate the Professor. Bell’s instincts drive him into full investigative gear, determined to find answers. Lynds must tell him the truth about the invention that has the German military machine willing to kill for it. He finally admits that it’s a talking picture synthesizer that will bring still movies into the full sound realm. The American inventor Thomas Edison has tried, but his machines fail to completely synthesize words with pictures. Why would such an invention be important to German military operations?
Clive Cussler and Justin Scott weave a fast-paced tale with a believable play on facts in the days prior to World War I. In his lust for world domination, Germany’s Kaiser might well have thirsted for control over the minds of his subjects and those he wished to command. The authors portray Isaac Bell as a genuine humanitarian as well as an accomplished private detective, and readers grow with his character both professionally and personally. America’s role on the sidelines prior to the First World War plays out in the pages of THE THIEF. Cussler fans will approve of his latest effort and desire more installments of the series.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on April 19, 2012