In my mission to finish up reading the entire bookshelf of Clive Cussler novels, I directed my attention to Lost City. This is the follow up novel to White Death, which I found more than a little lackluster. Cussler writes this side series of novels, better known as the NUMA files, with coauthor Paul Kemprecos. At times, I think the coauthor is the source of the inconsistent quality when I compare these novels to the rest of Cussler's work.
I can tell you that, unlike some previous outings, the writing duo is in top form here. Following his own formula, Cussler starts with a tale of a pilot attempting to cross the Alps in 1914 with an aerial dogfight that Snoopy and the Red Baron would have enjoyed. From there we get into present day, and we have a main plot of a powerful European family, and their centuries long quest for profits, power, and the "fountain of youth." They are like the modern day equivalent of the Hapsburgs, and they are heavily involved in the lucrative industry of weapons manufacturing. Side plots include trips under a glacier (subglacier?) with a research lab and power plant no less. If that isn’t exotic enough, we also have a trip to the bottom of the Atlantic, and to a reportedly deserted British Isle. There are also more cosmopolitan destinations of Washington, and Paris with a cast of expansive characters.
This NUMA files series is starting to mature, and it is including what could be signature elements to this series, and not merely living off what has been done already. For example, we have a St. Julien type expert of aviation that offers some background information analogous to the colorful, and knowledgeable nautical expert that permeates the main series of novels. Another example is the use of the Trouts- a couple with maritime expertise that have appeared in previous NUMA file works. Lost City also felt more like a Cussler novel as we had references to both Sandecker and Dirk Pitt that seemed to naturally fit in, and were not forced.
As if this wasn’t enough, Cussler and his coauthor also made multiple literary references, not too indirect either, to many of Edgar Allen Poe’s novels. It was nicely done to include many of Poe’s protagonists at a costume party, that true to Poe, turn a lot creepier than initially advertised. Finally, this whimsical reference to Poe's work, particularly The Fall of the House of Usher carries through to the end of Lost City.
Summing up, Lost City served to revive this offshoot series of Cussler novels in a major way in my mind. The prose is crisp, and it is quintessential Cussler. It would appear that this writing team has hit their groove in a way that I haven’t seen since the first two novels of this series: Serpent and Blue Gold. This novel is strong enough to fit in with the best of Cussler’s work.
Overall Grade: A
Reviewed by Jonas