Captain Juan Cabrillo, otherwise known as the Chairman, takes Clive Cussler fans on a fast-paced seagoing voyage in the newest Oregon Files novel, MIRAGE. Despite sporting an artificial leg from earlier exploits, Cabrillo manages a daring rescue from a desolate Siberian prison --- a feat that lands him and the Oregon crew in the middle of a possible international confrontation at sea.
Cussler and co-author Jack Du Brul, like earlier books in the series, begin their tale with a mysterious event many years before, this time in 1902. The captain of a cargo vessel off the coast of Delaware experiences a rare phenomenon when a deep blue light envelops his ship. A powerful gravitational force soon turns the ship into a magnet, wrenching a metal shard from a crewmate’s chest and killing him instantly. The glow then vanishes as quickly as it came, leaving a calm sea around the vessel. The dean man’s body is buried at sea; a report is given to the Coast Guard, and no further disturbance is recorded.
"Despite global voyeuring, the Oregon delivers readers satisfaction in her latest mission. Cabrillo brings to the sea what Batman does to the air. MIRAGE will be a satisfying winter read."
The scene then shifts to modern times in Siberia, where Cabrillo enters the prison disguised as a new inmate. His mission is to rescue a long-time friend, Yuri Borodin, a former Russian Naval officer who has been falsely accused and brutally beaten, and is near death. The initial escape has gone according to plan, but the two convicts are chased by the ruthless Russian prison detail before they can reach the Oregon. Borodin is mortally wounded by rocket fire but manages to whisper “Aral – Eerie boat – find Karl Petrov - Petrovski…” His final word is “Tesla.”
Cabrillo is thoroughly confused by this final request but deduces that Borodin’s imprisonment had been orchestrated by his Russian counterpart and rival, Admiral Pytor Kenin. Borodin must have discovered a shady plot and had been framed by Kenin, a power-hungry military leader. To honor their friendship, Cabrillo vows to avenge his death and discover meaning in his last words.
Researching Nikola Tesla brought out the inventor’s uber-genius, akin to Thomas Edison’s discoveries. Cabrillo first travels to the Aral Sea where he will research Karl Petrovski for information about Tesla and his inventions. Cabrillo meets Petrovski’s widow who directs him to an old man, Yusuf, a fisherman on the Aral Sea before the waters had been drained from the lake bed. Aided by an interpreter, Cabrillo asks Yusuf to take him to the eerie boat that Petrovski had discovered there. Cabrillo and Yusuf navigate the former sea bed, finally citing a ship’s remains: “the eerie lodka.” Clearly a pleasure boat rather than a fishing trawler, the sunken ship was misplaced in the desert. Cabrillo finds himself under attack by a sniper’s rifle while inside the wreck.
Meanwhile, chapters wind to 15 miles off the California Coast in international waters. The sonar-powered sub plays cat-and-mouse with a United States Coast Guard cutter whose sensing devices pick up a possible foreign sound in the deep. Finally, the American cutter leaves the area, leaving the Russian sub undisturbed. Kenin is on board and gives the Captain a thumbs-up for the mission, declaring the vessel sea-ready for drug cartel use. Kenin’s plan for the drug money will finance his disappearance from society after the primary mission he plans is concluded.
After managing to escape from the wrecked ship, Cabrillo travels to Vermont to research Tesla’s work further. Tesla had pioneered studies in electromagnetic radiation, possibly dabbling in teleportation by magnetic field --- an unlikely idea but not impossible. Together with researcher Professor Tennyson, Cabrillo looks into Tesla’s experiments in ionizing weaponry for the government. Tesla had rigged a magnetic system to bend light around a ship’s hull to disguise the craft. The inventor had rigged two such ships, one being the wreck Cabrillo had discovered in the Aral Sea days before.
MIRAGE takes Cussler’s fans on a wild ride on numerous oceans, and Russian, American, South American and Chinese land sites. Cabrillo tests his own mortality by daring actions on land and underwater. Taking life-threatening underwater diving to maximum depths, he brushes death with regularity. At times, the book goes off on tangents that seem irrelevant to the plot line. Despite global voyeuring, the Oregon delivers readers satisfaction in her latest mission. Cabrillo brings to the sea what Batman does to the air. MIRAGE will be a satisfying winter read.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 20, 2013