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The Gangster: An Isaac Bell Adventure


The Gangster: An Isaac Bell Adventure

Clive Cussler and Justin Scott bring 1906 to life in vivid technicolor descriptions in THE GANGSTER. Detective Isaac Bell, star employee of the Van Dorn Agency, is charged with rooting out a vicious crime organization known as the Black Hand. In New York, a Sicilian building contractor’s daughter is kidnapped by them. Bell locates 12-year-old Maria Vella, frees her after a bloody struggle and returns her to her distraught family. Additional Italian businessmen in the tight-knit community soon become Black Hand victims: a bomb blast in a bank, Giuseppe Vella’s construction site rigged with explosives that unleash a flood of water to destroy the project. The owners convince a Sicilian grocer, Antonio Branco, to join them as a White Hand group. Together, they hire the Van Dorn detectives to bring down the extortionists. 

True to the format used in previous Isaac Bell novels, the reader is entertained by a prologue, which takes place during Bell’s college days in 1895. The smart young student convinces his freshmen friends to steal from their dorm at nightfall, hijack a train locomotive, ride it to a nearby girls’ school, wake up the girls, let out that Bell and his friends are Yale students, and party. It begins well but falls apart when a rail yard guard is found sliced by a knife. The boys are unaware that a Sicilian thug is on the run from the cops, sliding underneath their moving locomotive after committing the crime. Bedlam ensues when the boys, now discovered, hightail it back to New Haven. Bell diverts their would-be captors but comes face to face with what he perceives to be a railroad hobo. Years later, the glance will return.

"A thrilling historical novel, THE GANGSTER will have every Isaac Bell fan waiting for the next book in the series."

The turn-of-the-century storyline covers politics of the day, President Theodore Roosevelt having won another term, and railroads, telegraphs and motor vehicles enriching everyday communication. Cobblestones replace dirt streets, sturdy shops improve former lean-tos, and corruption expands in government, on both the local and national levels. The Italian businessmen find themselves on the cusp of ruin from extortionists or success with Bell’s aid. In the midst of the community, a Roman Catholic Church stands as a beacon of hope to those struggling to retain their freedom. Its priest is a busy confessor to whom many visit daily.

Not only does Bell become a target of multiple gang death threats, corrupt leaders at a higher national level also wish him dead. When Marion Morgan, Bell’s fiancée, becomes a target, he swings into high gear. With help from the agency, his group identifies paper type and quality, as well as the counterfeiter the Black Hand has used in threats. They have located him and are ready to apprehend him. At the same time, Captain Mike Coligney gets a visit from a bordello owner who has eavesdropped on seven clients. These wealthy men have bones to pick with Roosevelt’s policies. The Cherry Grove Gentlemen’s Society, commandeered by one member in particular, plans to assassinate the President. Later, Conigley visits his friend, Van Dorn, with the information. The Van Dorns come on board, with Bell in charge of the operation. At this point, he is stretched thin by the Black Hand investigation but is up to the task. Bell discovers a much more pervasive threat to the entire country when he finds slimy threads in both cases that might be linked by blind ambition.

Bell finds himself squeezed between power-hungry and jealous rivals. Not only Sicilian gangsters but Irish goons, a corrupt Tammany Hall and national politicos undermine each other for the biggest piece of the financial pie. A thrilling historical novel, THE GANGSTER will have every Isaac Bell fan waiting for the next book in the series.

Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on April 8, 2016

The Gangster: An Isaac Bell Adventure
by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott