Sunday, April 07, 2013


An Isaac Bell Adventure
By Justin Scott (& Clive Cussler)
Berkley Novel
434 pages

After four fast moving thrillers which had turn of the century Van Dorn ace detective Isaac Bell pursuing terrorists and spies aboard battleships and overland on America’s rails, this fifth outing sends him soaring through the clouds with history’s first daring young men and women in their flying machines.

It is 1909 and San Francisco publisher, Preston Whiteway, is sponsoring the first ever cross continental air race from New York to San Francisco with the winner getting a prize of  $50,000.  Whiteway’s motives aren’t all altruistic as he has become enamored with the female aviatrix, Josephine Frost whom he has christened The Sweetheart of the Air.  But there is a major wrinkle in Whiteway’s plans.  Josephine’s husband, Harry Frost, a self-made millionaire, is wanted for the murder of her aircraft’s designer, Marco Celere.  Frost discovered his wife and her flying mentor were having an affair and after shooting the Italian, vows to do the same to Josephine.

Whiteway hires the Van Dorn agency to hunt down Harry Frost and bring him to justice at the same time protecting Josephine during the race.  The man put in charge is Isaac Bell, the Van Dorn’s best detective.  From the start, Bell’s own instincts warn him that the entire affair is skewered.  Celere’s body was never recovered from the woods of upstate New York where he was supposedly shot by the irate Frost.  Authorities dismiss this lack of a corpse telling Bell it most likely fell into the river beneath the ledge where the body fell and most likely washed away into the wilderness to become fodder for wild animals.   But Bell doesn’t like loose ends.  The entire shooting incident continues to plague his thoughts all the while he is following Josephine and the other half-dozen fliers from around the world all vying for the Whiteway prize.

When several airplanes are purposely sabotaged during the early stages of the race, Bell and his men begin to realize they have a second foe on their hands.  But who is it and what is this mysterious agent’s objective in ruining the air race?  In the end, Bell realizes he only hopes of successfully protecting Mrs. Frost is that he pilot his own aircraft and shadow her throughout the race from in the air. 

Once again, Justin Scott delivers a fantastic, brilliantly researched adventure that perfectly captures the sense of wonder and awe as the miracle of aviation arrived bringing it with it unimaginable potential, both good and bad, for the future of America and the world.  Here are flimsy contraptions made of balsa wood, painted canvas and untested engines all soaring on the courage of a handful of daring pioneers who reached for the heavens and took the rest of us along for the ride.  If you like action and adventure set against authentic, historical backgrounds, you cannot do any better than the Isaac Bell series by Justin Scott.  Sure, Clive Cussler’s logo is plastered over ever title, but save for the initial book, Justin Scott is the author and deserves all the praise we can give him.  Please keep’em flying, Mr. Scott and we’ll keep reading them.

1 comment:

Scott Parker said...

I am slowly--so I can savor them--the Isaac Bell stories are fantastic. I'm going to get to #3 this summer.