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"...refreshing escapist entertainment."
"Don't even peek at SAHARA until you're ready to read every word. America's finest adventure writer, Clive Cussler, has given us the ultimate Dirk Pitt tale, s taut zinger that I couldn't put down."
Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Clive Cussler is at his absolute, riotous, violent, macho best in SAHARA.... Dirk Pitt is a godsend ... The finale is no less than splendid."
"Dirk Pitt is at it again... proving himself indestructible to the bad guys and irresistible to beautiful women — and irresistible to readers as well!.... Terrifically fun...."
United Press International
"Clive Cussler gets more wild and mischievous with every new book.... SAHARA is a fast-moving string of adventures with some outrageous side plots.... A tour de force...."
"It's Dirk Pitt at his adventurous best...."
"Cussler champions ecological issues with verve, and continues his love affair with history.... Great fun... putting Beau Geste swashbucklers against the vilest of villains."
Newport News Daily Press
"Cussler gives us one of his most consistently enjoyable books in years.... Romance, violence, technology, and history all blend swimmingly into another adventure in which that old lethal smoothy Dirk Pitt can really raise some hell.... Cussler knows how to make action flow."
New York Daily News
"An ecological thriller with sideshows, and some most imaginative escapes and close calls.... There are some delicious villains.... It all comes together, but more than that, it leaves Cussler with a real problem, and that is how to top himself."
Raleigh News & Observer
"SAHARA is a great way to spend an afternoon. Or two. Or three.... A good-time book, a swashbuckling adventure.... You can't help but enjoy it."
The white sands of the empty beach flared beneath the barefeet of Eva Rojas, the fine grains sifting between her toes. She stood and gazed at the Mediterranean Sea. The deepwater was dyed cobalt blue, becoming emerald as it shallowed, and then fading to aquamarine as its waves fanned out on the bleached sand.
Eva had driven her rental car 110 kilometers west from alexandria before stopping at a deserted section of beach not far from the town of El Alamein where the great desert war of World War II was fought. Parking off the coastal highway, she collected her tote bag and walked through low dunes toward the tide line.
She wore a coral one-piece stretch jersey bathing suit that fit her like a second skin. Her arms and shoulders we recovered by a matching top. She stood gracefully, lightly, and her body was firm, the limbs slim and tan. Her red-gold hair was tied in a long braid that fell down her back almost to her waist and glistened under the sun like polished copper. She stared from Dresden blue eyes that glowed from a face with smooth skin and high cheekbones. Eva was thirty-eight but could have easily passed for thirty. She would never make the cover of Vogue, but she was pretty with a vibrantwholesomeness that men, even much younger men, found very appealing.
The beach appeared deserted. She stood poised, turning her head and staring up and down the shore like a cautious deer. The only other sign of life was a Jeep Cherokee, painted turquoise with the letters NUMA on the door, sitting about a hundred meters up the road. She had passed it before pulling over and parking. The Jeep's occupant was nowhere to be seen.
The morning sun had already warmed the sand, and it felt hot to her naked feet as she walked toward the water. She stopped a few meters short of the water's edge and spreadout a beach towel. She checked the time before dropping her watch in the tote bag. Ten after ten. After applying a number25 sunscreen lotion, she stretched out on her back, sighed, and began soaking up the African sun.
Eva still suffered from the lingering effects of jet lag after the long flight from San Francisco to Cairo. That and four days of nonstop emergency sessions with physicians and fellow biologists over the strange outbreaks of nervous disorders recently discovered throughout the southern Sahara Desert. Taking a break from the exhausting conferences, she wanted nothing more than to immerse herself in a few hours of rest and solitude before traveling through the vast desert on a research mission. Gratefully, as the seabreeze soothed her skin, she closed her eyes and promptly dozed off.
When Eva awoke, she glanced at her watch again. It read eleven-fifty. She had been asleep an hour and a half. The sunscreen had held sunburn to a light shade of pink. She rolled over on her stomach and gazed around the beach. A pair of men in short-sleeved shirts and khaki shorts were slowly walking in her direction along the water's edge. They quickly stopped as they spotted her observing them and turned as if staring at a passing ship. They were still a good 200 meters away, and she took no more notice of them.
Suddenly, something caught her eye in the water some distance from shore. A head with black hair broke the surface. Eva held a hand over her eyes to shade the sun and squinted. A man with a dive mask and swim fins was snorkeling alone in deep water beyond the breakers. He appeared to be spearfishing. She watched as he dove out of sight, remaining underwater for so long she thought he was surely drowning. But then he resurfaced and continued his hunt. After several minutes, he swam toward shore, expertly catching a breaking wave and body surfing into the shallows where he stood up.
He held a strange-looking spear gun with a long barbed shaft and surgical rubber attached to its ends. With his other hand, he carried a group of fish, none weighing less than 3pounds and attached by a stainless steel hoop that hung from a belt and ran through their gills.
Despite a deep tan, his craggy face didn't bear Arabic features. His thick ebony hair was plastered down by the saltwater and the sun sparkled the drops of water clinging to the matted hair on his chest. He was tall, hard-bodied, and broad-shouldered, and walked with a loose grace that was impossible for most men. She guessed him to be close to forty.
As he passed Eva, the man coolly licked his eyes over her. He was close enough so that she could see they were an opaline green, set wide with a clear glimpse of the white around the iris. He stared at her with such direct candor that it seemed to reach into Eva's mind and mesmerize her. Part of her was afraid he might pause and say something, the other part wishing he would, but his white teeth showed in a devastating smile as he nodded and walked past her to the highway.
She watched him until he disappeared behind the dunes in the area where she had seen the NUMA jeep. What's the matter with me, she thought, I should have at least acknowledged his attention with a smile in return. Then she dismissed him in her mind, deciding that it would have been a waste of time since he probably couldn't speak English anyway. And yet, her eyes shined with a light that had not been there for a long time. How odd, she thought, to feel young and excited by a strange male who gazed at her for one brief moment, and who would never pass her way again.
She felt like going into the water to cool off, but the two men strolling along the beach had approached and were passing between Eva and the surf so she modestly decided to wait until they had passed on. They didn't have the fine features of Egyptians, but the flatter nose, darker almost black skin, and matted curly hair of people who lived on the southern fringe of the Sahara.
They stopped and furtively looked up and down the beach for perhaps the twentieth time. Then suddenly, they where upon her.
"Get away!" she screamed in instinctive reaction. She frantically tried to fight them off, but one, a slimy-eyed, rat-faced man with a thick black moustache, brutally grasped her by the hair and twisted her on her back. A cold fear shot through her as the other man, whose tobacco-stained teeth were etched in a sadistic smile, dropped to his knees and sat across her thighs. The rat-faced attacker straddled her chest, his legs pressing against her arms, forcing her deep into the sand. Now she was pinned helplessly, totally, unable to move little else than her fingers and feet.
Strangely, there was no lust in their eyes. Neither manmade any attempt to tear away her swimsuit. They were not acting like men intent on rape. Eva screamed again, high and shrill. But her only reply was the surf. There wasn't another soul to be seen on the beach.
Then the rat-faced man's hands closed over her nose and mouth, and he began to smother her calmly and purposely. His weight on her rib cage added to the constriction of air. The supply of air to her lungs was completely cut off. Through the hypnotic spell of terror, she realized with horrified disbelief that they intended to kill her. She tried to scream again, but the sound came muffled. She felt no pain, only blind panic and shocked paralysis.
She tried desperately to tear away the unrelenting pressure on her face, but her arms and hands were gripped as if in a vise. Her lungs demanded air that wasn't there. Blackness began to creep into the edge of her vision. Desperately, she held onto consciousness, but she could feel it slipping away. She saw the man who was sitting on her thighs peer over the shoulder of her murderer, realizing his leering face was the last sight she would ever see.
Eva closed her eyes as she approached the brink of a black void. The thought that flashed through her brain was that she was having a nightmare, and that if she opened her eyes it would be gone. She had to struggle to lift her eyelids for one final look at reality.
It was a nightmare, she thought almost joyously. The man with the stained teeth wasn't leering anymore. A thin metal shaft was protruding from both his temples, much like a novelty arrow that fitted over the head and looked as if it had been shot through the skull. The assailant's face seemed to collapse and he fell backward over her feet, his arms spread wide in crucifixion.
Rat-face was so intent on smothering the life from Eva that he didn't notice his friend had fallen away. Then for one second, maybe two, he froze as a pair of large hands materialized and tightly clamped around his chin and the top of his head. Eva felt the pressure over her nose and lips die as her assassin threw up his arms and furiously tore at the hands that were gripping his skull. The utter unexpectedness of this new development only added to the unreality of the nightmarish shock in Eva's mind.
Before blackness closed over her, she heard a crunching sound, like a person biting down on an ice cube, and she had a fleeting glimpse of the killer's eyes, wide open, protruding, staring sightlessly out of a head that had been twisted around in a full 360-degree circle.
Excerpted from Sahara by Clive Cussler Copyright © 1992 by Clive Cussler. Excerpted by permission.
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