A deadly biological weapon thought long-lost is suddenly out in the world and a South African-planned black-op terrorist attack on the United States meant to discredit an insurgency to white rule intertwine with only one man finding himself at the crux to stop them. The fifth book of the Dirk Pitt series, Vixen 03, by Clive Cussler finds the intrepid NUMA Special Projects Director racing to first solve a mystery and then racing to save the nation.
An Air Force transport plane takes off in a January Colorado blizzard carrying a deadly cargo, but the storm results in the plane crash landing on top of a snow covered lake then sinking. The Pentagon, under orders from Eisenhower, alters the records of the plane to hide its deadly secret. Thirty-four years later in South Africa, Scottish naval captain-turned-farmer Patrick Fawkes goes to a meeting with the South African Defense Minister and discusses the feasibility of a black-op, which Fawkes explains is impossible yet during the meeting his family is murdered during an attack seemingly by the African Army of Revolution run by an American-born black against the white South African government. As a result Fawkes talks the Defense Minister into letting him do the black-op, which the AAR finds out about and gets the info to the American government though they regard it highly unlikely to take place. Meanwhile in Colorado’s Sawatch Mountains, Dirk Pitt is at the cabin of his current girlfriend, Congresswoman Loren Smith, when finds parts from an old aircraft in the garage that Loren believes her deceased eccentric father found while hiking. Bored while not having sex, Pitt begins investigating and stays at the cabin after Loren returns to Washington where she runs afoul of a black congressman who supports the AAR for his own political ends and attempts to blackmail her after getting racy photos of her and Pitt sleeping together. Pitt’s investigation results in him identifying an aircraft that shouldn’t be in Colorado but in the Pacific and along with his friend Al Giordino and an Air Force Colonel Abe Steiger investigate a nearby lake and find the wreck along with the body of Loren’s father—he supposedly blew himself up. Steiger is stonewalled in Washington while Pitt heads to his assignment raising a Union ironclad, but travels to Virginia to talk with the man who assigned the plane’s mission and finds out it carried a deadly biological weapon. Pitt finally informs his boss Admiral Sandecker and NUMA raises the aircraft but find that 8 out of the 36 shells are missing. Pitt, Giordino, and Steiger confront Loren’s neighbors who killed her father and sold them to an arms company for extra money. After conning the arms company Pitt and Steiger track down six of the eight, but the last two were accidently purchased by the AAR but really the South Africans for their terrorist attack. Fawkes with his unwitting black crew and the kidnapped AAR leader in an overhauled battleship go up the Potomac to within range of Washington and start bombarding the capital on December 7. The U.S. government “warned” by the South African Prime Minister launches an attack on the battleship since Fawkes doesn’t know he has two biological weapons. Pitt is able to get onboard the battleship and neutralizes one of the weapons, but the other was already loaded into a tube. The shell is fired, but do to it being a biological warhead it parachutes and a helicopter piloted by Steiger intercepts it and flies it out to the Atlantic. Pitt travels to South Africa to bury Fawkes and meets with the South African Defense Minister, who orchestrated the murder of Fawkes family and who sent the Prime Minister warning, is killed by a member of his own staff and a member of the AAR then buried in Fawkes’ grave.
Set a 1988, Cussler’s guess at the overall situation in the world was off but still made for interesting alternate history in which to set his book’s narrative. The two main plots following Pitt and Fawkes were well written while the two main subplots of the AAR and Loren Smith were underwhelming. Fawkes as a good tragic figure who setup by the Defense Minister was easy to guess, while Loren Smith’s first appearance as Pitt’s on-and-off girlfriend was just showing off Pitt’s sexual greatness and given his characterization in these early books isn’t surprising. The science behind the biological weapon was a little farfetched if one really thought about it, but overall it wasn’t the worst thing in the book. Critically nothing was bad, but there were a lot of things that alright.
Vixen 03 is a nice next installment in the Dirk Pitt series by Clive Cussler, building up on Raise the Titanic! Overall it’s a good book with only a few bits that were unfortunately off putting but nothing compared to earlier books. While the not the best book of the series I’ve read so far, it’s shows a lot of improvement on Cussler’s part.