A few times in my reading career I’ve come across books that read as if they’ve just barely hit their publishing deadlines. The Kingdom is one such book. This book felt tremendously short, which of course is a very subjective opinion. Compared to other Cussler novels, however, The Kingdom specifically lacked the antagonist’s subplot, an addition to the story which generally takes us readers into the evil lairs of criminal masterminds nearly as often as we see the protagonists in action. Though the antagonist in this novel had a colorful family to do his dirty work all over the world—a lithe Chinese assassin for a wife and their Asian-featured blonde twins—their roles in this novel were comparatively minor when looking at the full breadth of Cussler’s other novels written throughout his career.
This particular story follows Sam and Remi Fargo to the Himalayan borderlands between Nepal and Tibet, a favorite location of mine, where they seek a Shangrila and the theurang, a golden statue that might give clues to humanity’s earliest ancestors. They also search for a missing friend, chase possible ghosts, hunt golden relics, and fashion a dirigible out of a parachute and jet-fuel infused reeds. Certainly, this adventurous couple accomplishes a lot in this book, but for the reasons mentioned above, it still felt short.
In 2011, Cussler co-authored four books, giving him a pretty full docket, so it’s not like I can blame him for falling behind in his publication schedule. How long has it taken me to write a single novel? Six years? But when he’s got the help of an experienced author like Grant Blackwood to add meat to the bones of his fantasies and to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s, there really should be no excuse. Perhaps this is why Cussler later swapped out Grant Blackwood for Thomas Perry as co-author for the next Fargo Adventure installment. It’s all speculation on my part, but while I like to imagine that the Cussler production house is a smooth, well-oiled machine, it’s got to have its kinks here and there. This time, it’s here.
Incidentally, 2011 wasn’t a completely horrible year for Cussler, for that’s the year he co-authored my favorite Isaac Bell novel, The Race, with Justin Scott. I guess this just goes to show that not every book’s a winner, and not every working relationship can last forever. I look forward to seeing how Thomas Perry affects this series in Book 4, The Tombs.