Friday, June 30, 2017

The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler (spoilers)

Title: The Mediterranean Caper
Series: Dirk Pitt
Author: Clive Cussler
Genre: Adventure
Pages: 208
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Year pub: 1973 (orig), 1990 (reissue)
Rating: ★★★ - 3 Stars

I've got the beginning of a Clive Cussler kick in me ever since I read Pacific Vortex! and quickly picked up The Mediterranean Caper from the local library. The only copy they have on the shelf is an omnibus that pairs it with another Dirk Pitt yarn, Iceberg, but I'll read that separately later on.

So anyway, The Mediterranean Caper is the first Dirk Pitt book published, but chronologically, it's the second in the series. As I noted in a previous post, Pacific Vortex! was the first written. I'm glad I read it first because The Mediterranean Caper throws a few references to the events in the former. Taking place a year after that book, TMC sees Dirk Pitt and his sidekick Al Giordino is the, you guessed it, Mediterranean Sea on a mission from the National Underwater and Marine Agency, or NUMA. The science agency has a research vessel - the First Attempt - offshore of the Greek island of Thasos hunting for what might be a major find for evolutionary science - a fish with limbs. Pitt and Giordino are there to troubleshoot some problems the expedition has been experiencing.

What they don't expect to do is having to dog fight a World War I-era biplane that's attacking a nearby United States Air Force base! Once they drive the plane off, the fun really starts. Pitt's too wired from the air battle to sleep and slips out to a nearby beach for a relaxing swim, where he meets a beautiful (of course she's beautiful, have you ever met a woman in a adventure/thriller that isn't?) woman named Teri.

Then backhands her. Seriously. I'm not kidding. When he finds out that she's been a celibate widow for eight years, Pitt just freaking snaps and delivers a slap to the face and berates her. This right here is why my two prior attempts at reading The Mediterranean Caper failed. This scene is just plain uncomfortable and badly dates the book. And to make it even more uncomfortable, Pitt has sex with her in what today could be considered at least borderline sexual assault. Yikes. I ended up just skipping this scene and continued on my way.

After that cringe worthy scene, Pitt makes some surprising discoveries: Teri is the niece of a shipping magnate named Bruno von Till, who also happens to have known WWI German flying ace Kurt Heibert, called The Hawk of Macedonia. The latter sets off alarm bells because the biplane that attacked the air base matches up with the one flown by Heibert. Pitt gets to meet von Till later that night after Teri invites him to dinner.

From there, the plot picks up. Pitt quickly determines the source of First Attempt's problems: sabotage. Someone is low key trying to prevent NUMA from doing any kind of underwater operations and Pitt thinks it's von Till. The latter pretty well confirms it when he throws our hero into a labyrinth running under his villa and sics his big ass white dog on him. Pitt manages to escape not unscathed and has to hot foot it back to the First Attempt to both warn them of an impending attack by the yellow biplane and to set a trap for it. It's a wild success.

Bruno von Till is really and truly a horrible asshole. He uses his shipping business as cover for his illicit operations and has had his hand in a lot of disreputable things, such as smuggling stolen gold from Spain to India, smuggling Nazis from Germany to Argentina, and sex trafficking school girls to North Africa. All heinous and all pale in comparison for his biggest and foulest operation: smuggling 130 tons of uncut heroin into the United States. The damage, as you can imagine, would be enormous and it's suddenly a race against time as Pitt, Giordino, and new found allies from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics and the Greek gendarmerie try to gather enough solid evidence to incriminate von Till.

The conclusion, much like that of Pacific Vortex!'s comes in an underwater cavern. The difference is while the Vortex's climax is drawn out, Caper's isn't. It's a satisfying ending and we even get a final plot twist before it.

All in all, The Mediterranean Caper wasn't a bad book. The way Teri (and women in general) is treated dates this book badly. His sudden violence towards just made no sense whatsoever. Still, I would recommend it for those looking for a good adventure yarn to kill time.

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