It is 1906, and in New York City, the Italian crime group known as the Black Hand is on a spree: kidnapping, extortion, arson. Detective Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Agency is hired to form a special 'Black Hand Squad,' but the gangsters appear to be everywhere - so much so that Bell begins to wonder if there are imitators, criminals using the name for the terror effect.
And then the murders begin, each one of a man more powerful than the last, and as Bell discovers, to his dismay, the ultimate target may be the most powerful man of all.
I have read many of Clive Cussler's tales over the years, and there's one important thing I have learned... All of Clive's books have an odd twist. Most reveal themselves reluctantly and late in the plot, but in the case of this title, the twist came early, clearly and very abruptly. However, much to my delight, I found that it didn't spoil the story at all. Quite the opposite, it allowed the plot to develop smoothly and gave the authors the freedom to explore other plot twist options as well. It also allowed them to devote some extra time to second-tier characters, fleshing them out some more and giving them more depth.
As much as I liked the thrills and suspense, I have to admit that I really enjoyed the historical setting the most, which was described so well that I could easily visualise it as I was reading. This is always a good sign for me, as I find that if an author can build a solid image in my mind, chances are good they can also weave a coherent plot too. Cussler, and his assorted co-authors for various series - never fail to exceed my expectations.
Overall, though the 'Isaac Bell' series is not my favourite of Cussler's various series, this is still an excellent tale in its own right, and well worth reading if you enjoy historical American settings.
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Evelyn Waugh (1903 - 1966)