Serpent by Clive Cussler
The book begins in the prologue with a story based on a real shipwreck, the Italian luxury liner SS Andrea Doria, off the shor of Nantucket. Cussler devotes several pages to describing the events up to the collision with the MS Stockholm through the sinking of the Doria, building suspense and creating sympathy for the victims and survivors.
Cussler then whisks us away to Morocco to an archaeological dig including an underwater site. Here we are introduced to Nina Kirov--a tall blond diver who is the owner, president and sole employee of her marine archaeological consultancy firm called Mari-Time Research. While exploring the shoreline and a hidden lagoon, she discovered a carved head with unusual, yet familiar features. She returned to the main camp, reported her findings--except the carved head. That she saved for a friend of hers back home for further research. Nina sent a sketch to her friend at the University of Pennsylvania. Early morning of her third day at the site, Nina narrowly misses being massacred with the rest of the dig team. She escapes by way of the water and is then rescued by ...
Kurt Austin, the Special Assignments team leader in NUMA (National Underwater Marine Agency), is tall with blue eyes and nearly while hair. While rescuing the beautiful Nina Kirov from certain death, Austin unfortunately invites the assassins to finish her off and everyone else aboard the Nereus (a NUMA vessel). With odd of three to nine, Austin, his buddy Joe Zavala and the Captain of the Nereus manage to win against the ninja trained assassins.
Finishing up an assignment in the Yucatan of Mexico, Dr. Gamay Trout--another member of NUMA--has finally arranged a meeting with a VIP from the national anthropological museum in Mexico City. She asked Dr. Chi if there were any archaeological sites in the Yucatan that depicted marine life. Gamay expected to look at drawings of scallops, Dr. Chi showed her instead a nautical scene. While exploring the ruins, they stumbled upon chicleros who loot Mayan ruins and sell the artifacts. These chicleros didn't want their looting business interrupted by curious gringos.
So what does an Italian luxury liner, archaeological dig in Morocco, and chicleros in Mexico have in common? That's what Kurt Austin wants to know.
Enter Don Halcon. He is the owner of Halcon Industries which is an umbrella corporation with many divisions. Halcon is also apparrently a descendant of The Brotherhood--a group of fanatics formed in the 1400s to protect the honor of Christopher Columbus. A rumored artifact on the Andrea Doria, the carved head in Morocco and the nautical scenes in Yucatan all suggested pre-Columbian relations between the East and West. Don Halcon wanted it all eliminated and anyone who got in his way.
Clive Cussler is an excellent writer. I've only read the first two Dirk Pitt adventures, but I think I might prefer Kurt Austin and the NUMA files series. While Dirk Pitt comes across rough around the edges, Kurt Austin seemed more of a gentleman. Don't get me wrong, I will definitely read the rest of the Dirk Pitt series, but then will promptly move on to the NUMA files. I found Serpent hard to put down. Cussler's great style shines through even in a new series.