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Penguin Group (USA) LLC
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Spartan Gold (A Fargo Adventure Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 386 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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Top Customer Reviews
As the novel opens, they're hip deep in the muck of a Maryland swamp. They're looking for buried treasure, but what they find is something altogether unexpected. It's a Nazi-era German mini-sub, very, very far from where one would expect to find such a thing. An attempt to get the scoop on local rumors of such an anomaly is aborted by their source's kidnapping right before their eyes. After the Fargos free their friend from the professional operative interrogating him about a shard of a wine bottle he found in the Pocomoke, the plot really takes off.
It comes as no surprise when the Fargos' crack research team (back at their home base in La Jolla) links the wine bottles to "Napoleon's Lost Cellar," and then links these 12 wine bottles, secreted around the world, to a major hidden treasure. This is because we'd seen the great man make his (unseen) discovery of ancient treasure in the novel's prologue. It is this unknown treasure that Sam and Remi are seeking, but they've got competition in the form of a ruthless, Ukrainian crime boss and his henchmen. Unlike the Fargos, Hadeon Bondaruk knows exactly what they're seeking and he'll stop at nothing to possess it. So begins a cat and mouse chase across the globe. It's an epic scavenger hunt with high stakes. Along the way, there's breath-taking scenery and a few history lessons leading up to the inevitable showdown between the good guys and the bad guys.
It's an okay start, as these things go. The characters are more archetypes than flesh and blood people. But, hey, it's a series; there's time for character development later. There are some fun supporting characters, most notably Yvette Fournier-Desmarais. I expect we'll see more of her. Sadly, I can't say the same for their sidekick researcher, Selma. She was a cardboard cutout masquerading as a character. For now, Sam and Remi display that typical Cusslerian insouciance in the face of danger, and snap off witty banter whenever possible. It's easy to joke about their arcane knowledge. (The rugs of Yoruk nomads? Really?) And an early reference to Henri Archambault elicits the response, "THE Henri Archambault?" Why, yes, Napoleon Bonaparte's chief enologist. He's practically a household name.
Still, despite their ridiculous knowledge base, the Fargos are refreshingly fallible. This is probably my favorite thing about the novel. They're chasing cryptic clues. They have to work really hard to solve them. Sometimes they even have to sleep on it. The puzzle solving is depicted unusually realistically. (I mean, in those National Treasure films, riddles are solved in a matter of seconds.) And Sam and Remi make other mistakes, too. They get lost occasionally. They screw up. What can I say? Imperfect protagonists are infinitely more interesting in my book.
The story is light, very light, and fast-paced for the most part--though my interest did flag a bit in the middle. But then our heroes took the action into the proverbial lion's den, and that picked things up straight through the ending. By and large the writing is fine, though there are some quirky redundancies to the text.
Fans of Cussler's signature mix of history and adventure will likely give this one a thumbs up. It's nothing to write home about, but Grant Blackwood is off to a respectable start.
However, I have some problems with the Cussler industry and the number of books being turned out in recent months. This is the third one I have read in the last few months - Corsair, Medusa, and Spartan Gold. All were written by co-authors. The books are becoming extremely formulaic, and Spartan Gold is no exception. We always have the following:
- Heroes who perform unbelievable feats. Either two heroes with equal billing or one hero with an equally capable sidekick. Spartan Gold unveils Sam and Remi Fargo, a husband and wife team with great skills and an unlimited budget.
- A back office support team that can provide anything needed in an amazingly speedy fashion
- Plots that grow increasingly convoluted and that usually require considerable historical explanation
- An evil bad guy with huge resources and equally huge plans
- A brief appearance by Cussler himself
Having made those points, I have to admit that I enjoyed Spartan Gold. I would not want to have to take a test on my understanding of all the history, and I found some of the feats slightly hard to accept. I look forward to the day when Mr. Cussler writes the next book by himself and possibly includes some twists and turns that we don't find very familiar.
As a final point, I wonder if the authors receive compensation for product placement as in films. Our heroes in the book make constant use of their Macbooks and iPhones and also rely heavily on Google. All good products. I think Apple should be pleased.
Cussler and Blackwood weaved the history behind this story nicely into the action, and the Lost Cellar riddles were a blast to unravel. I never felt like I was getting a history lesson while I was following the plot, which is something I can't say about all of these kinds of thrillers. I read these kinds of books for their "escapist pleasure" quotient, and SPARTAN GOLD gave me just that.
Highly recommended, can't wait for the second installment of the Fargo adventures.
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