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66 of 72 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 7, 2012
Van Dorn detective Isaac Bell returns for his fifth adventure in "The Thief." Readers last saw him in the whimsical "The Race" (9/11). That book was not one of the better ones in the series. However, Clive Cussler and Justin Scott have raised the bar to the standards they set in "The Wrecker (11/09). The authors have already taken us for journeys on planes, trains, and automobiles so it seems only fitting that this one is set onboard a ship.

Breaking with tradition, the story begins without a given date, but sometime before war breaks out in Europe. Isaac Bell and his associate Archie Abbott are returning to the States on board the RMS Mauretania. Bell makes an astute observation (very Holmes-like) about something he hears in the water near the ship. After Abbott goes below, Bell is accosted by three intruders who come aboard in an attempt to kidnap two of its passengers. A fight ensues, the would-be kidnappers are dispatched, and the plot begins to play itself out.

There are some similarites here to the "The Spy" (6/10) but rest assured this is an all-new mystery. I miss the frame format that was used so effectively in "The Chase" (11/07) and again in "The Wrecker." I really like the idea of Isaac Bell taking us back in time to recount his many adventures. There are allusions here to situations in the previous stories, but that should not deter first-time Isaac Bell readers from picking up this book. Will Isaac Bell and Marion finally wed? Read on to find out.

I overlooked one point in my initial review. Every once and again an author will create a minor character that seems to come to life right off the page. Pauline Grandzau is that character in "The Thief." She is the feisty "assistant" to Arthur Curtis in Van Dorn's Berlin office. She's a keeper, and you'll see why.

A hat tip to Roland Dahlquist for his illustrations.
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2012
I have never read a Clive Cussler novel before; I bought this one as a contribution to our public library so I got first dibs on it. With so many novels from so many series under his belt, Cussler comes out once more with this latest adventure to date featuring detective Isaac Bell.

Set approximately in 1910, the story follows the exploits of a fearsome undercover agent for the German Imperial Army, who longs to get his hands on a special device being carried by steamship from England to the USA. The agent is known as the Acrobat and what he wants is the newest invention by a pair of entrepreneurs named Clyde Lynds and Franz Bismark Beiderbecke, who are on board the Cunard liner Mauretania. Bell is also on board with his fiance, Marion Morgan, and he thwarts an attempt by the Acrobat to kidnap Lynds and Beiderbecke. The thing they are protecting turns out to be a new process for synchronizing sound to film, a revolution about to break into the burgeoning movie industry. The two inventors obviously need protection, which is offered by Bell and his Van Dorn Detective Agency.

They are stalked all the way to New York City, then across the country to California, then back to New York, by the end of the story. Cussler has a fast moving style of narrative, and he puts the reader into interesting scenes of cat-and-mouse and the intelligence games of detective work. Bell is a veritable dynamo in every respect, a swashbuckler with the smarts of Sherlock Holmes and the grace and honor of a gentleman. The Acrobat - General Major Christian Semmler - is a cross between 'Jaws' of James Bond fame and Rambo. The point of view switches quite often, and not in any awkward fashion; but I found myself wanting to see things more often from Semmler's viewpoint - he is an intimidating antagonist; and sometimes from the viewpoint of novice detective Pauline Grandzau, just for extra color to the adventure, or even from the perspective of the inventor Lynds. But the storyline is never lost, and the complications of the actions are never above the reader's head. We even get some chance encounters with real people from this era: a hard-nosed Thomas Edison, and an ebullient D.W. Griffith, to name two. Semmler puts up a ferocious battle for his object of desire: with war brewing, the Germans are desperate for an opportunity to start making real 'talkie' movies as a propaganda tool - to persuade the Americans to side with them in the conflict.

Personally, I have no grounds for comparison for this novel; whether it is a fine Bell mystery or a bland one, I can't say, having not read the other Bell stories. It is not exactly my cup of tea for an adventure story either. But neither can I condemn it, because it is also not an example of the offensive, vulgar, blood-dripping mainstay of more modern-era thrillers out there. It is a fairly easy read and nice escapism. One has to wonder, however, why this novel was not called The Akrobat. Oh well...

I did come across a lot of typos, an unusual thing in an otherwise pleasing presentation of hardcover publishing. And there is, for example, this (on p.157): "'Frisco's only five hours on the train." An observation from Bell as the scenery is about to change from New York to the west coast. Five hours by train from New Jersey? Or Chicago? Or Deming, New Mexico? With a few obvious slips getting past the editors, it comes to my mind that the proofreaders for G.P. Putnam's Sons may be hard put to get work with the Van Dorn agency. If it's due to fatigue from the pen of Cussler himself, all is understandable - he seems to be pumping out two novels a year recently.
Would I recommend this to other readers? By all means, go for it; you could do a lot worse. For those like me who are new to Cussler - he's written about 48 novels since 1973 - and for those wanting more recent adventures, they might want to go for one of his Dirk Pitt books (there are 21 of them), or the NUMA or Oregon series. With excellent credentials as a marine explorer, Cussler has an eye for detail but he doesn't load the reader down with them. Nearing the age of 81 and still prolific, Cussler could keep you reading for many years to come.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2012
The first three Isaac Bell books were terrific, lots of detail, colorful side stories. Amazing how Cussler has managed to turn this series completely mediocre, a real shame. In quality, The Race was about a third of the book of any of the first three, The Thief is about a fourth. Double spaced text, 1 3/4" bottom margin per page, if they had single spaced the text and used more of each page, this could have been a 120 page short story and CC could have saved a LOT of paper!! Since CC thinks this mediocre production is more important than reader loyalty, I'll give him a 2 out of 10 for this latest effort!
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23 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2012
I have had a run in recent months of reading the next installment of a fiction series from authors I have followed for years. The Clive Cussler/Justin Scott effort "The Thief", the newest installment of the Isaac Bell series, was the latest one. Unfortunately, as was the case with this run of fictional series, "The Thief" continues a trend of utter disappointment.

I have always been a fan of Mr. Cussler's Dirk Pitt adventures, which he is transitioning to his son. But when he puts his name on an ostensibly co-authored - more like "branded" - effort, such as the Oregon Files or NUMA Files, I have found more misses than hits when I have read a few of each series. However, when he started the Isaac Bell series in 2007, I found them nearly as entertaining as the Dirk Pitt adventures. "The Chase" and "The Wrecker" were great, fun, fast-paced reads. However, as he has seemingly ceded primary authorship to Mr. Scott, the quality has started to suffer. The third installment - "The Spy" - was pretty good, and "The Race" mediocre at best. "The Thief" is very nearly a complete waste of time.

I managed to breeze through "The Thief" in the course of about three evenings after it was released. The plot - if there is one - is so inconsequential and uninspiring that it isn't worth the space in this review. Suffice to say that trying to create an international mystery revolving around talking motion pictures did not work. All of the elements that made the Isaac Bell character interesting were absent in this novel, as was any of the historical situations, equipment, and encounters that made the first two books in the series so engaging. The criminal was not fleshed out in any way that made the mystery compelling, nor were any of the secondary characters interesting in the least. The writing style felt lazy, and it wandered around - even from paragraph to paragraph - in such a way that it made the reader's attentiveness in the story even harder to maintain.

All told, "The Thief" provides more ammunition to my belief that when successful authors like Mr. Cussler start to "brand" themselves by putting their names on other series that are primarily written by other authors, the overall reputation and legacy of that successful author suffers mightily. I think he really had more of a hand in the first two novels of the Isaac Bell series, but as Mr. Scott seemingly takes more control, the series is skidding downhill rapidly. If I were in Mr. Cussler's place, I would have either sent "The Thief" back for a major rewrite, rewritten it myself, or scrapped the project entirely. I'd be embarrassed to have my name on this, no matter how much money you earn from fans like me who continue to be fairly loyal.

I cannot recommend "The Thief" at all, even to those who - like me - were initially entertained by the Isaac Bell series and have yet to read this novel. If there is a next installment in the series, Mr. Cussler and Mr. Scott had better absolutely dazzle us. If they can't reach that level or expectation, this is yet another fictional series that should end now before it completely falls off the quality cliff.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2012
I am a big Clive Cussler fan and have read most of his books. I liked the Issac Bell series until this book. The writing is choppy and doesn't flow like the others in this series. If Justin Scott's name wasn't on the cover I would swear that someone else had written it. Definitely not the same quality as past books.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 12, 2012
While historical accurate, the Thief left a little to be desired. Kind of went round in circles with the Edison bit, knew about Fort Lee since I grew up in the area - 'talkies', just not up to past Cussler books
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2012
Another in the Isaac Bell series, this one finds our turn-of-the-century detective on the Mauretania after a monkey-like murderous thug after a piece of technology that could change history. Well, that's the premise and it sounded intriguing until I actually found out what it was. Then it wasn't quite as exciting. That being said, I didn't really care. I got my kicks enjoying how the story unfolded.

Set in the turn-of-the-century from the 19th to the 20th, I was especially intrigued with the technology of the times, which gave it a sort of steam-punk touch. Historically, I have no idea how accurate the little details really were, and I don't care. They appeared real enough for my enjoyment and I figure only true history or technology buffs may be crying foul at any minutiae the authors may have got wrong.

As usual, the story was full of chases and fights, Clive's trademarks. My only real beef besides the lack of impact of the big McGuffin, was the relatively poor editing. Overall, it was fine, but there were places with glaring typos that made the book look like they let an unapproved galley proof slip through. I was a bit surprised at that. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Not the best of the three Bell books, by any means, but still a decent effort. I see more life in Isaac Bell, but Clive and his co-author need to ramp up their game a bit and at least come up with a better premise next time. Still recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"The beginning of strife is like releasing water; . . . ." -- Proverbs 17:14 (NKJV)

As with the other Isaac Bell adventures, this one is partly by water . . . and partly by train. The water has the edge in this story, especially in the beginning . . . a well plotted, intriguing set of events aboard the Mauretania.

I was disappointed in how the story developed once on land. It became just a slowly developing investigation where most of the "findings" are well telegraphed to the reader far in advance. I was tempted not to bother to finish the book, due to its ultimate development becoming overly transparent for my taste.

My main complaint about the book is that the premise behind it . . . an intense effort to acquire a critical technology . . . just didn't work all that well for me after I learned what the technology was. I don't want to spoil the story, but see what you think in this regard.

From that point on, I found myself "studying" a novel rather than being deeply buried in it . . . emotions and all.

I hope it will engage you more than it did me.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2012
Van Dorn detective Isaac Bell is at it again in Clive Cussler's newest entry into the series.

Isaac Bell and fellow Van Dorn detective Archie Abbott are returning from Europe with a prisoner. While on board the liner Mauretania, they witness three men trying to abduct two others. Bell thwarts the attempt and the thugs disappear. It turns out that the two men who were almost apprehended are Clyde Lynds and Franz Bismark Beiderbecke; scientists who have invented an astounding new device. This device has the capability of adding sound to motion pictures.

A second attack takes place and this time, one of the scientists isn't as lucky as before. Isaac Bell persuades his boss Joseph Van Dorn to provide security for Clyde Linds, the surviving scientist. He will need it because General Major Christian Semmler, otherwise known as "The Acrobat", has his sights set on Lynds' invention as a tool for developing German propaganda films.

Once in New York, a cross-country chase ensues between Bell and the acrobat and such period characters as Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan make appearances in the story. Bell must stay one step ahead of the acrobat, or risk having the plans for Lynds' invention fall into the hands of the Germans.

I've become a big fan of the Isaac Bell series. I enjoy period history fiction, and Cussler and co-author Justin Scott have done a great job of blending in fast-paced action and adventure into a real-time setting. The addition of true period characters such as Edison and Morgan make the story all the more realistic. Of course, Isaac Bell and the other characters are well-developed, and the story is full of twists and turns. Just when you think you have it figured out, andother twist comes along to throw you off.

I recommend "The Thief" very highly. The story is fun and full of adventure, and you have good guy Isaac Bell to root for.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 27, 2012
Action, adventure, not very believable, not as interesting as other Cussler books
and with less historical context.Would recommend as entertaining.
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