Inca Gold remains one of my favorite Dirk Pitt adventures. A strong opening draws the reader in immediately with divers being rescued from a sinkhole in Peru. The mystery deepens as Pitt sets out on the trail of a vast treasure, including the golden bodysuit of Tiapollo. Pitt’s then-girlfriend, Congresswoman Loren Smith, also gets to play a significant secondary role.
One of the challenges any author in this genre faces is overcoming an inherent lack of suspense. Heroes like Dirk Pitt always survive, always win out in the end, and the girl is almost always ready and willing. Too much emphasis on the “bad guy” is not a good investment because we know he (or she) is going to lose in the end.
The better authors in the genre overcome this obstacle by weaving a fascinating back-story, a multi-layered mystery with the elements doled out in savory bites, and putting the hero in well-crafted settings. These techniques help draw the reader into the tale and overcome the initial lack of suspense and presumption of success.
What Cussler does particularly well in Inca Gold is spin a fascinating back-story with a variety of historical and archaeological elements. I’m personally biased in favor of the adventure-thriller that is heavy on both. The fast-paced techno-thriller is fine, but I tend to grow bored if there’s not enough to engage my mind. In this story, we have Inca legend, Francis Drake and evil art/artifact smugglers and forgers.
Cussler also adds some nice twists to the search. It’s more than a linear, “shoot my way through the bad guys” sort of plot. Pitt and his friends actually have to use their brains a few times and Pitt’s perilous trek down an underground river is compelling and entertaining.
Inca Gold ranks #2 on my list of Cussler faves and is a terrific introduction to Dirk Pitt if you’ve never read any of his adventures. It’s also one of the Cussler novels I actually own in hardback.
Rating: 8.5/10Powered by Sidelines