Monday, 10 May 2010

Spartan Gold by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood

January 2010, Penguin: Michael Joseph
416 pages, Hard back
Review copy

Cushions: 2
Daggers: 3
Paperclips: 0.5
Smiles: 4
Nayuleska's recommended rating: ♥♥♥

Summary from Penguin

Thousands of years ago, the mighty Persian king Xerxes the Great was said to have raided the Treasury at Delphi, carrying away two solid gold pillars as a tribute to his glory.
In 1800, while crossing the Pennine Alps, Napoleon Bonaparte and his army stumble across the pillars. Unable to transport them, Napoleon created an inscrutable map on the labels of twelve bottles of rare wine. When Napoleon dies, the bottles disappear - and the gold pillars are lost once again.

Treasure-hunters Sam and Remi Fargo are exploring the Great Pocomoke Swamp in Delaware when they are shocked to discover a German U-boat. Inside, they find a bottle taken from Napoleon's 'lost cellar'. Fascinated, the Fargos set out to find the rest of the collection. But another connoisseur of sorts has been looking for the bottle they've just found. Not for the wine. He wants what the bottle may lead to.

For he is Hadeon Bondaruk - a half-Russian, half-Persian millionaire - and he claims descent from King Xerxes himself.

And the treasure will be his, no matter what . . .

I like a good thriller. Mention the words ancient history or artefacts  and I'll push my way to the front of the queue. The prologue wasn't my favourite part of the book, but it did set the scene for the rest of the story. I loved the banter between Sam and Remi. It shows that they are close to one another. Their comments, and the way one of them would sometimes go off and do something the other didn't approve of had me smiling throughout the book. I haven't read a thriller (or, come to think of it, many other stories) which have a husband and wife team in them. Having that marital tie makes quite a difference in how Sam and Remi view each other. They have unconditional trust (although that doesn't stop them from worrying about each other). When one suggests something, the other trusts them to do it.

Sam and Remi's strong characters kept me reading. Without the humour between them, I would have probably put the book down part way through. For me, there wasn't enough action. I realise that not all thrillers are non-stop action. However, there didn't seem to be enough hardship in the story. Yes, there were a few edge of the seat moments. But I felt that Sami and Remi had it a little easy. At one place where they are trapped and the enemy is closing in on them, I hoped there would be more interaction with Bondurak's men. There wasn't. Sam and Remi managed to extricate themselves in a clever way. There was another major scene with Bondurak and his men, there was suspense in that. But somehow I didn't get much of a feeling that Sam and Remi were in danger. I felt that there was a safety net for them, that no matter what they did they would end up being together, in tact.

The basis of the plot was intriguing. I hadn't figured some of the elements out, so as the story unfolded I enjoyed being surprised every now and then as Sam and Remi's team figured out the puzzle. The team provided another entertaining element of the story, the characters stood out clearly and every time they were mentioned I expected - and received - a reason to smile. Although Bondurak didn't feature quite as much as I hoped, he was convincing as the main antagonist. I wouldn't want to cross him during the day or at night. The action which was in the story was well written and had me cheering on Sam and Remi as they fought back.

I'm interested in reading more books with Sam and Remi - I don't think their story is finished just yet.

If you would like to read another husband and wife team's adventures, try Elizabeth Peters' Amelia Peabody adventures.

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