Bestseller Cussler and Scott explore the origins of their series hero in the exciting sixth Isaac Bell adventure (after 2012’s The Thief). In 1902, Bell’s employer, the Van Dorn Agency, dispatches the private detective to West Virginia, where he’s to go undercover as a coal miner and ferret out the identities of saboteurs looking to do damage to the Gleason Consolidated Coal & Coke Company on behalf of a union outraged by the ultrahazardous working conditions. When a train accident leads to fatalities, the Pinkertons finger union organizer Jim Higgins as the person responsible. Bell is baffled as to how the chain that connected the lead coal car to the engine could have been fractured in plain view of hundreds of workers without anyone, including himself, seeing anything. The action flows swiftly, and the authors do a good job depicting the work conditions and the class warfare of the time. Agent: Peter Lampack, Peter Lampack Agency. (Mar.)
Cussler and company add to his fifth series, following the handsome young investigator Isaac Bell as he goes solo for the first time on a case for the Van Dorn Detective Agency. The year is 1902, and Bell is undercover in West Virginia investigating sabotage in a mine owned by ruthless John "Black Jack" Gleason, owner of the Gleason Consolidated Coal & Coke Company. The tall, blond-haired Bell stands out among hard-worn immigrant mining crews, all the more so since he is nearly killed while attempting to stop a runaway train of tipple cars. Cussler and Scott dig up interesting historical scene-setting factoids, including references to esoteric classic automobiles, Pittsburgh's posh Duquesne Club, and the history of massacres and brutal strikebreaking as unions begin to organize. The action shifts from the dangerous depths of a coal mine to Wall Street, to a confrontation in a tunnel being dug for the New York subway and to a riverboat battle between two paddle-wheelers. There are deft characterizations--Bell's detective crew, Kisley and Fulton, explosives and muscle; Wish Clarke, a "crack sleuth" occasionally in the bottle; Bell's nemesis, Henry Clay, illegitimate offspring of a bohemian artist, rejected Van Dorn protégé and now an amoral double agent; Jim Higgins, pacifist union organizer, and his beautiful, firebrand radical sister, Mary; and Archibald Angel Abbott IV, master of disguise--and the requisite hard-boiled dialogue like, "[You'll] be waiting in Hell for the next batch to come down and tell you who was laughing. Drop 'em and elevate!" Clay morphs into Claggart, agent provocateur allied with nefarious monopolist manipulator Judge James Congdon, and Bell ricochets from West Virginia to Pittsburgh, New York City and Cincinnati, leaving in his wake gun battles, knife fights and explosions--it helps that he's heir to a Boston banking fortune, has friends with private railcars and need not rely on expense accounting--working to prevent Clay-Claggart-Congdon from instigating a war that will wipe out striking miners and their families. Classic Cussler, offering action in an interesting setting.