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Book Review: The Chase by Clive Cussler

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Clive Cussler moves out of the realm of modern-day action thrillers with The Chase, a detective story set in the American West in 1906. The Butcher Bandit, a vicious but clever bank robber, has been hitting banks all over the west, leaving behind a significant body count, including women and children, and a dearth of clues. Isaac Bell, the top detective of the Van Dorn detective agency is hired to crack the case.

The story begins in a manner different from the usual Cussler novel. Instead of the historical prologue that sets the stage for the story to come, we begin (and end) with a scene nearly 50 years after the events of the story, when a locomotive is salvaged from a Montana lake.

The story unfolds at a rapid pace, with Bell quickly identifying the killer, but struggling to catch him in the act. The story includes much typical Cussler fare: bravado, gunfights, parties, beautiful women, a bit of intrigue, and a heavy dose helping of the author's love of all things mechanical. We get a turn-of-the-twentieth-century motorcycle, a race car, and railroad cars all described in loving detail. The culminating chase from which the book draws its title is worthy of Cussler's best work. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 also adds a twist to the plot.

If you are a fan of Cussler's work, you won't find any negatives worth mentioning. Those who read more broadly will find Isaac Bell a little too perfect: rich, handsome, charismatic, brilliant, skilled, noble, and resourceful. The dialogue is a bit cheesy at times, but basically what you'd expect from a rip-roaring, old-fashioned adventure. There are a few minor historical inaccuracies, but nothing that jolts the reader out of the story. The glaring mistake is placing Montreal just north of Montana. If you can ignore that, you should be okay.

Cussler's usual subject matter centers around the exploits of the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA), and typically have political or big crime connections. The Chase is an entertaining diversion, and a surprisingly strong addition to the Cussler catalog.

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