In this fourth book in the Isaac Bell series, Clive Cussler and Justin Scott are really coming into their own. Their best that I’ve read thus far, The Race fits all essential story elements into a tight, nicely packaged turn-of-the-century piece. From start to finish, it’s a fast-paced mystery-thriller filled with danger and disguises, sabotage and mayhem. And the authors invite everyone into this mystery starring Isaac Bell and the Van Dorn Detective Agency, from murders to lovers, from confidence men to simple “mechanicians,” from powerful newspaper magnates to the mentally insane. Everyone’s out to see who will win the $50,000 award and the coveted the Whiteway Cup, as flying men and one woman seek to be the fastest to fly clear across the United States of America.
Not terribly long after Kitty Hawk, inventors across the globe have begun the hard work of understanding the power of wind and perfecting the wings and struts that make a wooden bird fly. In this tale, one seemingly ingenious inventor has been murdered, though two of his newest models have been entered into the race to be tested against the best of the best. The beautiful young lady who “drives” one of these two “flying machines” is being pursued by her murderous husband who claims she’d been having an affair with the inventor before the husband had shot the man off a cliff. This drama causes Whiteway, the man responsible for setting up this most amazing race, to hire Isaac Bell and droves of other detectives from the Van Dorn Detective Agency as body guards to protect both her and his investment in the race.
I really enjoyed Cussler’s shift away from his traditional boats, trains, and classic cars to the earliest arrivals of flying machines. It was like a rush of fresh air that has brought my least-favorite Cussler series back into good standing. I’ve never been much interested in cowboy-era stories, and while I love historical fiction, I prefer it not be simply random history but rather the true history of an event, only with fictitious characters. I felt I got that with The Race, which covers the advancement of transportation technology and really feels like an era-piece, though written in today’s style.
While I don’t generally recommend people read a series out of order, I’d suggest that if you only read one Isaac Bell Adventure, make it The Race. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.