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Friday, March 27, 2015


4 stars out of 5

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a fan of history - as in the classroom learning of it. I do, however, enjoy learning how things that happened in the past impact the way we all live and work today as well as details that likely won't be included in any history textbook. My first and only experience with this series featuring James Bond-like private detective Isaac Bell, The Striker, was a pleasant one (like this one, I gave it, the sixth, 4 stars back in April 2013). But books by too many other favorite authors intervened (including several of the author's Dirk Pitt novels), and I somehow never got around to reading another until now.

And I admit I probably should have read the 7th (The Bootlegger) before tackling this one, although from my perspective it stands well on its own. I've read other reviews, though, claiming that questions and situations happening in the previous book were either left unresolved or not included here at all, leaving them to wonder why the oversights. But I also learned (after the fact) that this book is set four years prior to the first book of the series (The Chase, 2008), which certainly could account for seemingly left-out references.

That said, I really enjoyed this one, despite more than a few situations that seemed a bit over the top (a hot air balloon incident, for instance). The plot, set in the late 1890s and early 1900s, centers on an attempt to bring down oil magnate J.D. Rockefeller and his all-powerful Standard Oil. I wasn't around back then, but I do remember Standard Oil, and the cities of Cleveland and Oil City, Pennsylvania, where at least some of the action takes place, are less than a couple of hours from my northeastern Ohio home (and I've spent time in both).

The book begins as an assassin begins to murder opponents of the huge oil conglomerate, one of whom is Bell's best witness in his company's investigation of Standard Oil's monopoly. That's followed by the sniper's detonation of an explosion that destroys the witness's independent refinery. 

The chase to find the diminutive assassin leads Bell around the world, from New York to the Midwest to the vast oil fields of Russia and puts the detective in many life-threatening situations that put his mental and physical skills to the test. Historical details are abundant, but at no time did I feel that they overwhelmed the story; in fact, they added to it and, whether they were fact or fiction, to my enjoyment of the book as well. Heck, I even learned a new word: inveigle. In case you're wondering too, it means to convince someone else to do something through coaxing and/or flattery.

The Assassin by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott (G.P. Putnam's Sons, March 2015); 418 pp.

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