The latest Dirk Pitt novel elevates skilled adventure writing to yet another level. The father-and-son team of Clive and Dirk Cussler splashes the story from the Aegean Sea to Israel to England and back to Turkey. Incidents in times far removed from one another --- a pirate attack on a Roman galley in 327 AD, an explosion of a British warship in 1916, and present-day bombings in Egypt and Turkey --- are common threads in an international web of terror. Dirk Pitt and his NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency) crew work in conjunction with the Turkish government in the Aegean Sea, mapping contours of the ocean floor for scientific research. Pitt observes a Greek fisherman in trouble, not far from NUMA’s work site. With his snagged nets lost in the deep, the fisherman leaves the area. Pitt, along with assistant Al Giordino, launches their underwater Zodiak explorer vessel and anchor near the fisherman’s site.
Both men dive deep and locate the mangled nets, snagged on an anchor and keel of an ancient shipwreck. Pitt’s bold curiosity has set him on a course of discovery that leads to international intrigue. Together with clay pots and dishes, they carry away a rectangular ceramic box, emblazoned with floral motif. When Pitt pries open the lid, the content --- a heavy solid gold crown and miscellaneous silver and gold coins --- is revealed. Initial identification puts their origin in the time frame of the Arabic Ottoman Empire.
Now, Pitt flies to Athens for a short holiday with his wife, Lauren. There, they dine with Dr. Rey Ruppe of the Istanbul Archaeology Museum. At Topkapi, the Ottoman palace where the museum is housed, Ruppe examines the artifacts, reinforcing their Ottoman origin. But before the Pitts leave his office, an attack on the palace leads to chaos. He wrestles with a van driver who has killed a palace guard but stops abruptly when a female voice cries out, “Let him go, or the woman dies.” Lauren is kidnapped.
Meanwhile, Dirk Pitt, Jr. works for NUMA in Caesarea, as a marine engineer helping local authorities reconstruct original port facilities. In diving gear, he splashes Israeli Antiquities Agent Sophie Elkin when he mistakenly sprays her with a water jet. His crew has uncovered various artifacts from the excavation they examine, including a papyrus sample with handwritten symbols. Dirk discovers a watertight box containing additional papyrus rolls with Coptic Greek writing that may trace back to a contemporary of the Emperor Constantine. Sophie and Dirk quickly develop a friendship that flowers into romance. Evil winds lurk in their future, threatening stability in the Middle East.
Cussler writes the entire Pitt family into CRESCENT DAWN, including younger twin sister Summer. Her NUMA activities take her to England where she and Julie Goodyear investigate the 1916 war correspondence of First Earl Kitchner, who perished when the HMS Hampshire sank. A mysterious Manifest ties him to a discovery that may rock the modern world.
CRESCENT DAWN carries the suspense and adventure of previous Dirk Pitt novels into a rapid-fire continuation of the NUMA endeavors. Pitt pushes the NUMA underwater vessels, like Zodiak and the high-speed Bullet, to new limits when he chases and is chased by rogues who seek his death. The woman who kidnaps Lauren, Maria Celik, and her brother, Ozden, become the pivotal players in an international plot that seeks to destabilize the entire Middle East, pitting Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Iran and Israel to war. Will a new Ottoman Empire emerge in Turkey? Pitt, his son and daughter, and the NUMA crew members become unwilling pawns in the drama unfolding before them. Terrorism of a horrific degree threatens entire populations when unleashed by psychotic evildoers. Money, power, destruction of religious ideology and pure evil dominate the playing field.
CRESCENT DAWN will provide pleasurable reading hours for the lover of foreign intrigue on your holiday shopping list. The Cusslers’ skill in developing the underwater storyline and coupling the tale with the human element make for a fascinating read.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on October 4, 2011