A lazy Sunday afternoon at a U.S Air Force base on a quiet Greek island is shattered when a WWI-era German fighter attacks and then finds itself in a dogfight with a WWII-era seaplane. The Mediterranean Caper by Clive Cussler was the first published book featuring Dirk Pitt and started off a four decade long series of books that sold millions of books and multiple times on the bestseller list.
Dirk Pitt and his best friend Al Giordino, heading to the Greek island of Thasos on a special assignment to a NUMA vessel, fight off a WWI German fighter attacking a nearby U.S. Air Force base in a WWII-era seaplane. The next morning Dirk takes an early morning swim and meets Teri von Till, niece of a reclusive shipping magnate who lives on the island. After meeting with the NUMA vessel’s captain, Pitt goes to meet Teri’s uncle Bruno for dinner and finds out he was a German pilot in World War I with a model submarine in his study. Von Till attempts to kill Pitt with his dog, but Pitt escapes and the next day with Giordino invade von Till’s mansion and kidnap Teri only to be detained by a member of an INTERPOL drug task force. Pitt and Giordino learn that von Till is a suspected drug smuggler and are ordered by the NUMA director to aid INTERPOL in stopping a massive shipment of heroin from reaching the U.S. After boarding the suspected cargo ship with the heroin, Pitt figures out how von Till hasn’t been caught. Pitt then leads a group of scientists to look for and find a massive cave in which they find several submarines, though caught by von Till and a mole from the INTERPOL task force it’s an elaborate trap as Giordino, several INTERPOL agents, and military personnel had raided von Till’s mansion and listened in on Pitt explaining to von Till everything he had figured out including that he was actually a Nazi war criminal which von Till didn’t deny.
This is a quick pacing book and has numerous cliché elements that one would expect to find in an early 1970s adventure novel with the main character notably inspired by James Bond. While I could knock the disjointed narrative flow or the weak character development of some of the other characters given the time period it was to be expected, the biggest eyesore is Dirk Pitt himself. The term “jerk” is a cleaned up way to describe Pitt’s interacting with anyone in the book including his best friend, Al, and his way to make a woman interested in him, slapping her for still mourning her late husband. This is not the same Pitt that appears in Pacific Vortex! or later in the series and would be a definite turn off for anyone encountering the character for the first time.
The Mediterranean Caper is a quick adventure that is sometimes fun, but today has a lot of problems. Though Clive Cussler’s portrayal of Dirk Pitt has improved over the last four decades, I would not recommend this book for those either interested in reading or listening to a Dirk Pitt novel. If you have read or listened to later books then be warned this is not the same Dirk that you’ve encountered.