Death is stalking the coastline of Alaska and on the Potomac River the President and the first three men in succession are kidnapped, these two events have thing in common and soon Dirk Pitt will figure out what. Deep Six is the seventh installment in Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt series, featuring the titular protagonist racing to stop a deadly nerve agent on one coast before getting wrapped up in a constitutional crisis when the President is kidnapped and subjected to mind manipulation leading to a race to find the missing Vice President.
A ship from San Francisco to Auckland is hijacked in 1966 by Korean seamen resulting in the deaths of the crew and the lone passenger, a female former bank teller who embezzled $120,000 from her employer. Twenty years later a deadly biological weapon is seeping into the Gulf of Alaska from an unknown point of origin, killing everything—man and animal—in its path. Dirk Pitt and NUMA is called in to find the vessel along with an EPA senior scientist, who Pitt bets a date on if he can find it in less than a day. True to his word, Pitt finds the vessel emerging from the upheaval of an island with an active volcano but as they begin clean up the volcano wakes up and the trimer causes the death the EPA scientist which leads Pitt to seek vengeance on the people responsible for stealing the biological agent in the first place. Meanwhile, the President tries to convince his own Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate Majority Leader to support his aid package to the Communist bloc but the four are kidnapped with the Presidential yacht replaced with a lookalike. Pitt is pulled from his investigation into finding the yacht, finding it sunk in the Potomac with the crew dead as well as Korean bodies as well. The kidnapping is sponsored by an international shipping corporation and the USSR to mind manipulate the four leaders into following policies friendly to the USSR with the President being the first subject. For 10 days the White House hides the fact the leaders are missing until the President returns with a story about a secret conference with his USSR counterpart then begins acting like a dictator due to instructions received from his Soviet doctors. Pitt links his Alaskan ship to the missing 1966 ship and the fake Presidential yacht to Bougainville Maritime Lines but is sidetracked when his on-and-off flame Loren Smith is abducted on a Soviet cruiser line. Pitt mounts a rescue and finds the Speaker and Majority Leader on the ship as well, but Bougainville’s black ops head sabotages the ship and almost kills Pitt while abducting Loren while the Speaker is finished out of the Caribbean by the U.S. Navy and heads to Washington wanting to impeach the President and become the new President. Pitt, saved by best friend Al Giordino, searches for where the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President, and mostly like Loren as well, focuses on Louisiana. With the FBI, Coast Guard, and Navy helping Pitt and Giordino discover the barge the Bougainville’s are holding the Vice President. In desperation, Pitt convinces a captain of a riverboat and a regiment of Civil War reenactors to mount a rescue and in the nick of time save before Loren and the Vice President, who makes it Washington just after the conviction of the President to take the oath of office. Pitt and the father of the woman who died in 1966 go to Bougainville headquarters and kills Matriarch of the clan—the black ops head being her grandson—to end their criminal activities.
Like the previous book, Cussler’s total lack of understanding of the Constitution once again rears its ugly head once the mind control President begins becoming a dictator with an assist from the Pentagon until he attempts to leave NATO. Frankly what he has the military due would never happen because of being unconstitutional and the military takes an oath to preserve the Constitution not the President. The fact that the Soviet leadership has the President do these unconstitutional things makes sense as not understanding the American government, but Cussler having the military brass be ignorant is just bad. Besides one complaint, this was a fun mishmash of action-adventure and political thriller book. Pitt takes a beating but has just enough to survive and outwit the Bougainvilles to save the day and get vengeance. The main protagonist in the person of Lee Tong, the Bougainville black op head, is probably the best straight-up evil villain in the series so far with a plan for everything that is only foiled by the combined efforts of Pitt, the military, and the Civil War reenactors at the end of the book. The female characters in the book are good for the most part with one passage of Cussler going back to the attitude of his earlier books, but the quality of the female characters is showing improvement. Pitt’s best friend Al Giordino is given more to do and is followed more than in previous books.
Deep Six improves a tad over the previous installment, though it could have been better if Cussler had thought out the Constitutional issues and had not taken a tiny step back in his attitude to female characterization while still getting better at writing them. Personally, I can’t wait for the series to get beyond the Cold War spy thriller aspect in later books because it results in some bad elements being written into the book which detract from interesting plots.