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Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center

Crusader Gold by David Gibbins

March 1, 2008

Bantam Dell: New York
October, 2007 (pb)

Crusader Gold is the second entry in a series that features marine archaeologist Jack Howard and his intrepid sidekick Costas Kazantsakis as they hunt mythic and semi-mythic treasures from the past. In this outing, they and their team of scientific treasure hunters from the International Maritime University set out on a global hunt for the golden menorah of Jerusalem that disappeared after the destruction of that city by the Roman legions 70 AD. Second only to the Ark of the Covenant in its importance to the Jewish people, the menorah eludes Jack and his team as they pursue its trail through history and geography. From Rome the trail leads to Istanbul, or Byzantine Constantinople, to the Illulissat icefjord in the North Atlantic, to the Viking outpost at L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, and finally to the steamy jungles of the Yucatan peninsula, Jack and company face natural perils and deadly human enemies in their search for the Temple treasure. Would it be surprising that their competition would be none other than Nazis? Not neo-Nazis, but honest-to-goodness second and third generation real Nazis!

Crusader Gold is a guilty pleasure; it is a potboiler, by any measure. But while this genre is awash in cookie-cutter knock-offs of such blockbuster bestsellers as The Da Vinci Code, occasionally an entry in the thriller sweepstakes does rise above the rest—and Crusader Gold does so. Why? I asked as I found myself liking this book. I have, I might add, been less accepting of these novels of late as they become more and more indistinguishable from each other—plus one can spend only so much time in airport terminals!

It’s not that Crusader Gold is not derivative—its similarity in plot and characters to the Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt series is almost shameless. But Gibbins can write passably well and while his characters—both heroes and villains—may lack a certain depth, there is a certain earnestness to them that kept my interest. But most importantly, Gibbins has convinced me that he knows underwater archaeology and he knows the historical context of his thriller. He may present an absurd and outlandish plot—Viking adventurers, menorah in hand, setting foot in the Yucatan and battling the Toltec lords of Chichen Itza—but it’s a goofy plot that Gibbins makes acceptable because it’s so much fun!

So if you want to suspend all disbelief for a few hours and spend some time having fun while you read, I think you’ll find Crusader Gold worthy of three trowels! I plan on reading the first of this series, Atlantis, and see if David Gibbins can make me believe for at least a little while in that lost city/civilization!