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Book Review: The Navigator by Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos

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The Navigator continues the NUMA Files series featuring Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala in the Dirk Pitt/Al Giordino roles. Austin and Zavala are drawn into the search for The Navigator, a stolen Phonecian sculpture, which could point the way to King Solomon's mines and an ancient artifact, the revelation of which could start a disastrous Middle Eastern uprising with global consequences. The story ties in Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis and an interesting twist on the legend of Solomon's mines.

As has become Cussler's pattern, the story begins with a double prologue which is actually more entertaining than most of the ensuing story. The plot is predictable. The bad guy considers himself a descendant of Solomon, but for some reason his hobby is medieval jousting. (Gee, wonder how Austin will be forced to fight him in the end?) Paul and Gamay Trout make a requisite appearance, and the obligatory beautiful leading lady turns out to have a DaVinci Code-style connection to the back-story.

The weak point of the NUMA Files novels is the characters, who are thin even by action-adventure standards. Kurt Austin is boring. He collects dueling pistols, likes a good drink, and somehow always gets the girl despite the fact that Zavala is the good-looking charmer. Zavala has even less depth than Austin. It's not that they are characters to be disliked so much as they are almost non-entities: two-dimensional characters moving through a cookie-cutter plot. I find myself wondering if these co-authored works about the National Underwater and Maritime Agency are written via a mad-libs style Cussler template. "Insert bad guy with weird hobby here. Insert humorous quip here. Insert smart, good-looking woman in peril here…"

The Navigator is for the truly devoted Cussler fan or the truly bored. Not his worst, but far from his best.

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