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Book Review: Treasure of Khan by Clive Cussler and Dirk Cussler

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Dirk Pitt is back in his 19th adventure. Pitt and sidekick Al Giordino find themselves ensnared in a mystery that takes them from Siberia to Mongolia. The bad guys in this installment are the descendants of Genghis Khan, who have hatched a sinister plot to disrupt the world economy through the use of a device that can crack fault lines.

The story follows the usual Cussler pattern. We open with a double prologue. Chapter one introduces some friendly folks in peril, who lend us their eyes so that we may vicariously revel in the awesomeness that is Dirk, with an assist from Al. The story unfolds from there, with our heroes moving closer to solving the riddle.

Someone stumbles across an antique car early on, so the reader knows that Dirk and Al will face great danger in this very location in the last one-third of the book, and will use this cool car to escape. There's the obligatory call to St. Julien Perlmutter, the just-in-time information from Hiram Yaeger and his super computer "Max", a cameo by Rudi Gunn, wisecracks from Al and dry comments from Pitt, and a few chapters with Dirk Jr. and Summer thrown in for good measure.

While the story is arguably formulaic, the formula mostly works. All those Cussler fans can't be wrong. The first prologue is engrossing and whets the reader’s appetite. The plot is much more engaging that Black Wind, and the emphasis is on Dirk and Al rather than the kids. The last third of the book moves at a fast pace and is an entertaining read.

On the downside, I found myself skimming many sections. Many of the scenes in the book’s middle third are unnecessarily lengthy or just plain unnecessary. In one memorable chapter, Dirk, Al and another character talk about getting together for drinks so they can talk about checking out a particular place. Al, of course, has to comment on how great it is to get together and have drinks and talk about things. They get together and have drinks and talk about what they're going to do, then they finally do the thing, and it turns out to be a waste of time. Treasure of Khan is 560 pages, but could easily have been 450 without the reader taking notice.

There are too many "let's sneak into this place, almost get killed, but use our resourcefulness to escape" moments early on. The problem with putting Dirk and Al in danger in the first half of a book is the utter lack of tension. We know they're going to be in it until the final showdown, so there's no reason to be in suspense until the end of the story when we find ourselves wondering, "Is this the book in which Clive finally pulls the plug on Dirk?" I'd like to see the Cusslers focus the earlier portions of the story on unraveling the mystery, and save the action for the later portions.

Overall this is a worthwhile book for genre fans and a must-read for Cussler fans. Treasure of Khan is a cut above Black Wind, and left me optimistic about the future of NUMA in the hands of Dirk Cussler.

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About Megalith

  • This article has been selected for syndication to Advance.net, which is affiliated with newspapers around the United States. Nice work!