Black Wind

Today we're turning our attantion to the novel Black Wind. This is the 18th novel in the insanely popular Dirk Pitt series of Clive Cussler stories. Ol' Clive is getting up there in years, and while he's worked with coauthors before, none other than his son, Dirk Cussler, helped to write this one. My guess is that they're planning a transition as the senior Cussler plans to "hang it up" at some point, and his son will take the reins of the main series of novels.

In Black Wind, we have all the favorite characters interacting. The action is centered around Dirk Pitt, Jr. who has taken over his father's previous role. His sister, Summer, figures prominently as well. They are assisted by Dirk Pitt, Sr., who can't seem to stay in the office, and his faithful sidekick, Al Giordano. Even Admiral Sandecker makes a cameo appearance.

The plot focuses on a lost WW II Japanese sub that was on a secret mission for an unconventional attack on the West coast of the US. It becomes a race as the sub's whereabouts, and cargo, get rediscovered by Pitt, and the evil doers. There is the standard assortment of minisubs, aerial vehicles, and surface ships that is a hallmark of a Cussler novel. With the intro of Cussler's son comes a newer classic car: a '58 Chyrsler 300D convertible which of course figures into the requisite car chase.

Black Wind is also notable in other ways. The first is that the Navy SEAL's play far more of a prominent role than in any of Cussler's previous novels. Another is that the NUMA ship is sunk, I believe another first. Also, this is the only background story to involve a submarine.

Speaking of the background story, I think this is where Black Wind is lacking. The usual formula is that the opening chapter describes some historic naval lore. This then ties into the plot towards the very end of the novel. It is very well done in such a way to keep the reader guessing as to how it can all possibly come together, but it does. Cussler's Sahara is one of the better examples of this, with two background stories. Unfortunately, Black Wind lacks this signature Cussler technique.

The other ingredient missing is the required visit to Julien Perlmutter, the eccentric maritime historian. This would have enhanced the novel as well, and left me a little lacking.

As the 18th Dirk Pitt novel in a series spanning over three decades, in my view, this is only middle of the pack compared to Cussler's other works. If you haven't read Cussler before, this is not the one to start with. With that said, while not as deep or rich as Trojan Odyssey, Atlantis Found, or Sahara, Black Wind is still quite an enjoyable read. The prose is excellent, and the dialogue quintessential Cussler. I can't wait for the next Dirk Pitt novel despite my quibbles with Black Wind!

Overall Grade: A-

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