cover image Sahara


Clive Cussler. Simon & Schuster, $23 (544pp) ISBN 978-0-671-68155-5

Cussler's ( Raise the Titanic ) durable hero Dirk Pitt returns with Al Giordino, his amiable hulk of a sidekick, to save mankind from a greedy industrialist in cahoots with a despot and to solve a few historical riddles along the way. Dirk meets beautiful Eva Rojas, a World Health Organization team member inspecting a mysterious epidemic that has struck in the Sahara, when he interrupts an attempt on her life. Then the National Underwater and Marine Agency sends Pitt and Giordino up the Niger on a gunboat to find the source of a toxin that causes red tide organisms to reproduce out of control, threatening to poison the oceans and deplete the earth's oxygen supply. The pairalso in next sentence is captured by evil billionaire Yves Massarde and Mali's tyrannical despot Gen. Kazim, but they escape to find the source of the pollution at Fort Foreau, Massarde's desert toxic waste factory that receives--but doesn't dispose of--nuclear and chemical wastes. Recaptured, Pitt and Giordino are sent to Kazim's desert slave camp, where they find Eva and her team--marked for death. A deadly trek across the Sahara is their only hope. Cussler champions ecological issues with verve, and continues his love affair with history by tossing in a Confederate ironside stranded in the Sahara near the remains of an aviatrix lost during the '30s. Some judicious cutting might have improved the narrative, but it's great fun nonetheless, putting Beau Geste swashbucklers against the vilest of villains. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild super release; Doubleday Book Club alternate; author tour. (June)