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on September 8, 2011
The Race Review 9/8/2011

The Race, the second in a series written by Justin Scott, under Clive Cussler's name, is a highly detailed account of a publicity airplane race, coast-to-coast, in 1910, less than a decade after the Wright Brothers' first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The terms of the race are that it must be done by the starting pilot, completed in under 50 days, following a prescribed route; the flying machines must also be airborne for at least two hours a day. The payoff is a $50,000 prize and extraordinary publicity by newspaper publisher Preston Whiteway, a William Randolph Hearst type of character.

Scott includes incredible detail in his novel: the particulars of the various types of flying machines in the contest, the minutia of parts of the aircraft, the clothing worn by the aviators, the types of weapons used by both the heroes and the villains, and the various locations where the craft land for repairs and R&R for the pilots. This is the same pattern used in the earlier two novels in the Scott series, as well as Cussler's solo, first-in-series, novel, The Chase. The technique was an effective device for drawing the reader into the worlds of the novels.

Unfortunately, the human element is missing in The Race. This element was essential to the success of The Spy, The Wrecker and The Chase. Each of the earlier novels made the reader feel what the characters were experiencing--both the good and the bad--and care about what happened to them. Each character was also carefully drawn as a unique individual, with his/her own needs, loves, hates and desires. Each machine central to the story was also well-drawn-out, in meticulous detail, in such as way as to make the reader feel as though he/she were actually on a speeding locomotive or inside a submarine or on a dreadnaught.

We also were in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, felt the evil in the dime novel villains in the three earlier novels, and cheered on the stalwart hero, Isaac Bell. We enjoyed watching the growing love between Isaac Bell and Marion Morgan, the popular actress and filmmaker. We even enjoyed the rivalry between Bell and the publisher Whiteway for the affections of Miss Morgan. All of that richness is gone.

In The Race, we have no sense of the wonder of flight, in an age where such a thing was almost miraculous...the euphoria of being above the Earth, like a bird on wing, seeing and absorbing as a pioneer all that lay before, beneath and around us. The novel is set in 1910 when flight was something most people had only dreamed of, and most would never experience--let alone even see a flying machine. Jules Verne and other fantasy and science fiction writers took hold of our imaginations and let them soar above the reality of our lives. The earlier aviators made it real. Yet, we never feel what the characters in The Race feel about the joys, terror, unknowns, and wonders of flight. Scott and Cussler might have done well to take a ride in a replica of early bi-planes or mono-wing planes and then describe what their characters should have experienced. Read Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de St. Expiry for examples of such writing.

All of the sense of being inside the world of the novel is gone. What we are given is a highly detailed landscape peopled by heroes and villains--so we are told by Scott--but we are not drawn into their lives to care about what happens to them. The heroine of The Race, Josephine Frost, is a fresh, innocent young woman who loves to fly. She had married a brute of a man, Harry Frost, an extremely wealthy man who made his fortune by killing or destroying others. Why she did this makes no sense; perhaps she was blinded by her love of flying, which Frost supports until he suspects she is having an affair with her airplane designer. An equally important jump in logic is how no one seems able to stop the ruthless killer, Harry Frost, until, of course, near the end where Bell does what he has to do. Indeed, the reader has no clearly drawn portraits of the principle characters and has little reason to either love, hate, fear or care for them. If it weren't for the earlier novels in the series, the recurring characters would only be mere outlines.

There are other equally superficial characters, including Preston Whiteway who suddenly falls in love with young Josephine Frost and marries her after the presumed death of her husband, Harry Frost. There is no justification for his action; Whiteway has the fortune to meet, marry and provide for many women who could be genuine partners in his world. He agrees to let his young bride fly, only until she has children; then what happens to her: an earth-bound life of raising children and no more flying?

There are numerous other characters who act in illogical ways, without rhyme or reason, merely to move along a rather transparent plot. One central character is Marco Celere, the Italian designer of Josephine's airplane, who assumes several roles by using superficial makeup and accents. Surely, Isaac Bell should have seen through such superficiality, but he is no longer the Sherlockian type of intuitive sleuth of the earlier novels. He has lost his detective insights, missing several obvious clues and always being just a bit late to revolve a matter, much to the detriment of others who are then beaten, shot and/or killed.

In a light, fun-sort-of-way, there is the upper-crust aviator who manages to see his craft destroyed beneath him in several crashes, from which he often manages to walk away with only minor injuries. He is a character the reader enjoys; so his "resurrections" offer a kind of comic relief, much like a beloved uncle who always appears at family celebrations, even though he doesn't quite fit in with the rest of the relatives; he is loved, though, by the innocent children...much as he is by some of the other characters in the novel.

A glaring problem with the novel is the absence of a previous figure essential to the storyline: Marion Morgan, the now fiancée of Isaac Bell. In the earlier novels, she was a vital, vivacious, stunning woman who made the heads of men and women turn. In The Race, she has a cameo role; there is none of the witty repartee between her and Isaac, and none of the underlying sexual tension that made their relationship so genuine. It is as though Scott (and Cussler) do not know how to handle their women. The women have become little more than stereotypes: The innocent female flyer, the cute eye candy for one of Bell's young men, the idolized actress for fans, the fiery Italian who has been wronged. The supporting men are also stereotypes, whether they are part of Harry Frost's gangs or members of the Van Dorn Detective Agency.

Scott (and Cussler) should return to the quality of writing of the earlier novels in the series; those novels drew the reader in, made him/her care about both the heroes and villains, and accept often outrageous plots because they were so well-crafted. The Race, may just be an unfortunate example of a book written to meet a deadline, paying lip service to satisfying the reader. It is time to get back to the tone, mood and creativity of the earlier Isaac Bell novels. Mr. Cussler needs to weed out his stable of writers, limit the volume of output, and focus of what he once did so well early in his writing career: Create fascinating works that drew the reader into highly satisfying worlds of escape.
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on September 16, 2011
Isaac Bell, the Van Dorn Agency's lead investigator, is back in "The Race". It is 1910, and airplanes are still in their infancy. The Van Dorns have been hired by newspaper magnate Preston Whiteway. Whiteway is sponsoring a cross-county airplane race from New York to San Francisco. The winner of the race will win $50,000. The rules are simple: the planes must be in the air at least 2 hours per day, the cross-country flight must be completed in 50 days, and the same pilot must make the complete flight.

One of the entrants is Josephine Frost. Josephine, being sponsored by Whiteway himself, had the displeasure of watching her husband, thug and all-around bad guy Harry Frost, shoot her lover. Now Frost, knowing that Josephine witnessed the murder, has set off across the country, following Josephine's flight while trying to catch and kill her, too. This is where Bell and his Van Dorn associates come in.

Over the course of the race, Bell is faced with protecting Josephine, while dealing with sabotage of competitor's aircraft, visiting a beautiful Italian woman in an asylum, and watching someone come back from the dead. On top of all of this, Harry Frost is not only after Josephine, but Isaac as well.

I've enjoyed reading Clive Cussler's books, and I really like the Isaac Bell series. Isaac is a prototype turn-of-the-century investigator: mustache, white suit, hat, and a derringer pistol. He's easy to root for. On the other hand, Harry Frost, who Cussler makes out to be stocky and violent-tempered, is the quintessential bad guy. These characters, along with the others in the book, are well-developed and interesting to follow. I thought the story was interesting and fast-paced. Being a fan of airplanes, I especially liked the story line. There are lots of twists and surprises along the way to keep the reader interested, too.

I recommend this book and the other Isaac Bell books. Filled with action and intrigue, "The Race" is an exciting new addition to the Cussler collection.
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on September 8, 2011
I'm a fan of Clive Cussler's earlier woks but felt let down by THE RACE in that there wasn't the usual depth to the characters and plot. It follows the `the wonderful men (and woman) and their flying machines' in a race for a $50'000 prize and valuable publicity across America. I love historical and period fiction and was at least rewarded in THE RACE by very detailed description of early aviation, but was again disappointed with the emotionless way in which it was portrayed. Whereas nothing has been spared in the description of the 1910 era, the characters' motivations are seriously flawed, the excitement of early flight lost and the story very predictable. Isaac Bell seems to have lost some of his edge as well and rather than keeping me guessing and being one step ahead of the game, it was the other way round.

I've given it 3 stars just for the accuracy of detail and research that must have gone into it, but if you are looking for a challenging thriller, with characters you want to read about, then I'd look somewhere else!
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VINE VOICEon September 12, 2011
I am a Clive Cussler fan and also am a fan of his co-authored books. I have grown to love the Isaac Bell series and always wait with anticipation for the next installment. Unfortunately this one left me a little wanting. I had a hard time getting through it.

The premise is great and the writing is fine. The action comes like you would expect from a Clive Cussler novel, it is plentiful and suspensefull at times. But for whatever reason I felt a lack of development of characters in the story.

The story is about an airplane race from coast to coast. Starting on the East Coast and ending on the West Coast in San Francisco. It takes place in the early 1900's when air flight was still in its infancy. So, to think that a lone pilot could fly a monoplane across the country is almost unbelievable. That's what Preston Whiteway is banking on. The Newspaper magnet wants to attract attention from a public that needs a new American hero. He wants to give them that hero in the guise of "The Sweetheart of the American Airways." In steps Josephine, a simple farm girl who just happens to have a love for flying. She is going to challenge a large group of men for the Whiteway Cup and the $50,000.00 prize. Can she do it? Can any of them do it?

Now enters our antagonist, Harry Frost, the former husband of Josephine. He is angry at her for what he feels is her immoral relationship with her aircraft mechanic, Marco Celere. The book starts with Harry killing Marco, or did he? It then has him fleeing from the law but making a commitment to kill Josephine before she can either start or finish this race.

The Van Dorn Detective Agency is brought in to protect Josephine from Harry and to do their best to catch him and bring him to justice. Isaac Bell is given the task of overseeing this protection detail and the hunt for Harry Frost. Harry and Isaac have a history that goes back 10 years to when Isaac was just starting out as a detective.

The story is going to revolve around Josephine, Harry, Isaac and Marco Celere. Our other characters from previous books have appearances, such as James Dashwood and Isaac's fiancé Marion. But this is where I think we loose some of the wonderful story development that is characteristic of Clive Cussler novels. These other characters take a backseat much more than they ever have in other books. They are not woven into the story as well as they could be.

Even Harry Frost is developed as much as I would like for the antagonist. Then there are several other characters brought in, such as the other pilots, the daughter of an aircraft designer, several young machinists, etc. They make appearances and have parts in the story, but they seem to come and go at odd times and not developed as much as they could be.

One final point from me, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I felt that several things were left undone, not tied up like they could or should have been. Maybe it was just me.

Anyway, I still enjoyed the read, I like the chase, I like the logic games that Isaac and Harry delve into. I also liked the details about the flying machines.

I think if you like Clive Cussler you will like this book, it just won't end up being your favorite of his writings.

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on September 27, 2011
I looked forward to this book with great anticipation. I have enjoyed The Issac Bell series particularly the Wrecker. The book came and I immediately started to read it. What a disappointment. Drag on and the same old thing. Our hero is remarkable, learning to fly and solve all flight problems. The British pilot with 27 iives, come off it. The history of early flight was a history of death. There is no explanation of why the heroine married the man she did, well a dull stupid book is never well written or thought through. Also Issac married his wife in an earlier book and now they aren't married. I finished thee book because i felt I should but I 'll admit I sped read the last few chapters. Don't waste your money
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on September 26, 2011
Well, I don't have to grade it, I don't have to make a book report on it, It is making me sleepy, I did pay good money for it, and I refuse to waste my hard earned money on anything!

Yeah, I will finish reading it. Too bad the author didn't know anything about very old airplanes and flying them. He missed an opportunity to pull his reader into the story with that knowledge.

The author never allowed his readers to know or identify with any particular character in the book; didn't give enough information or dialog upon which a typical reader can make a solid connecton to a character.

The plot was so predictable that skip-reading, a little ploy I use when I start wondering if the verbal garbage in front of my eyes is really necessary, didn't harm the story line or mandate that I page back to find what I missed.

A well written book will humiliate and delight the reader when he discovers that he really missed something by skipping ahead and the missed pages were worth reading! This book fell short of that worthy praise I expected for a Clive Cussler work of art.

Whoops! I forgot that I had promised myself to never again pay for a Clive Cussler book when it has a co-author on the cover.

"My bad!"
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on October 23, 2011
I loved this book!! Being a pilot myself, this foray into aviation in its early days was especially enjoyable. Plenty of action and great character development. The sweep crosses the continent from New York to San Francisco. Ladies, gentlemen, and plenty of bad guys, some less expected. Trains, planes, and early automobiles, along with firepower of the period, all in great detail. Another winner!
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I freely admit to being a Clive Cussler fan. Far more often than not, his over the top storytelling leaves me feeling exhilarated, excited and wanting moe. But like all prolific authors, he has also delivered the occasional dud. This is the fourth Isaac Bell novel and the third of series written with or by Justin Scott. The first three were total page turners and the Isaac Bell character unforgettable.

This one, though, in my opinion, falls flat on its face in the opening pages and never recovers. In truth, I could not struggle through to the end.

The characters are as insubstantial as a slight summer breeze. Isaac Bell seems confused most of the time. The villains, usually wonderfully caricatured in a Cussler novel struck me as unbelievable. The storyline of the little girl from the tiny town (Josephine Frost) marrying the much older and very wicked Harry Frost never clicked for me. The villainy seems far too overwrought this time and is impossible to believe.

The use of airplanes and a trans-continental air race in 1910 is a clever idea, but it isn't carried off well.

All in all, I got bored with it about a third of the way in and simply set it aside.

My respect for Cussler and Scott as authors isn't diminished in the slightest: everyone has a bad day.

I look forward to the next Isaac Bell adventure with the hope that it is more engaging than this one.

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on November 26, 2012
It hurts me deeply to say this but 'THE RACE' was a drag, a turtle race going at a snail pace. It bored me beyond bored. And I don't like getting bored when I'm reading. I got as far as 40% then said, enough is enough! I've read 'THE SPY, 'THE CHASE' and 'THE WRECKER' and couldn't put them down. 'THE RACE' was in a continuous a nose dive and never hit the ground. It was bad enough knowing that a millionaire psycho was trying to kill his young wife after she witnessed him killing her alleged Italian lover, but the deranged husband wasn't in the forty percent I read all that much. What was he doing, a walk on part? 'THE RACE' was WAY too talky, especially with the flying machine 'technobabble.' Where was the action? Where was the gunfights? (Only one in the first 40%!) Where was the chases? Where was Detective Isaac Bell? Where was the burning wit of Detective Isaac Bell? I couldn't care less about most of the characters. Normally, if I find the plot of a book interesting enough, I'd continue to struggle reading it even though the editing, dialogue and formatting was shot to hell. I couldn't in this case. It pains me so but I'm going to delete 'THE RACE' from my Kindle! I hope 'THE THIEF' will be a hell of a lot better. Sorry, old friend! (*SIGH*)
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on September 28, 2011
As much as I enjoyed the first 3 writings and the adventures of Isaac Bell along with the many characters in period settings "The Race" with talented writers, Justin Scott and Clive Cussler leaves a deep mystery of why these two would pen their names to this air race. I must admit the time I spent on the computer looking up facts on airplanes from that area was fun. I got enthused mainly because as a kid I was always drawing airplanes- those were fun times. As far as this Isaac Bell period adventure...It's really lost somewhere after taking off from the Adirondack location. The author's maybe had a great idea with planes here over a cup of coffee- but perhaps they should have spent time getting the feel of flying by hang gliding..or better yet finding someone with a small home made single seater plane that doesn't require a flying license. Take a few lessons take it up get a feel of really flying. The story that was built here with Harry Frost, the killer, seemingly at times is stereotypical...Marion Morgan, Isaac Bell's love, played such a small few lines here...Marco Celere- yeah this was a nice touch with his 2 lives written along with the knowledge of airplanes (, ah aeroplanes)...And then there is this newspaper publisher Preston Whiteway who shows up in the previous novel...Wow, he's really a piece of work! Can hardly wait to marry our heroine, Josephine Frost...he wants her to fly her aeroplane machines, that he'll provide...until they have children...and yes until they have children (...obviously that she must take care of). Oops... sorry 'bout that, I forgot this is a period novel.

Scott and Cussler missed the mark here along with a some times weak story lines. As much as I love reading this on my Kindle, I'm a little disappointed and should have waited on this one to show up at my local library for my much antcipaption of another much desired Issac Bell adventure.

Ouch this one hurt!

One star for now...And a second star in hopes that the next Issac Bell will impress me as did the first 3 before "The Race" ....Although I think I might of had enough of trains, and more trains.)
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