Friday, April 29, 2016

River of Death by Alistair MacLean


River of Death is not my favorite Alistair MacLean novel but I like it enough to recommend it. I read it not long after that first wave of the Indiana Jones craze. Certainly River of Death has key plot elements that are reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark starring Harrison Ford, such as the Amazon jungle locale, giant snakes and those stinking Nazis. The novel opens in 1945 with some German officers from Wilhelmshaven. Fast forward forty years and John Hamilton is hired by millionaire Joshua Smith to lead his team to an ancient lost civilization. Hamilton and his team will encounter a group of old Nazis who still dream of the Third Reich, which quite naturally makes them unfriendly. The novel has most everything you want in this type of adventure – a city of gold, natives with poison tipped arrows, an anaconda, and a vengeful plot twist that gets tied off perhaps a little too neatly in the end. In many respects this is all typical of MacLean who was the master of the plot twist. There are several groups of characters involved in locating the lost city of gold, and this is where I thought the book became bogged down somewhat with its complicated plot and some bland dialogue. His characters here are not as fully realized as in previous novels, coming across almost as caricatures.  And yet I enjoyed it even though as I read it I knew it wasn’t up to the same standard MacLean had set with great books like Where Eagles Dare or The Satan Bug, two of my favorites. Truth is, being an Alistair MacLean fan means that I am predisposed to find merit in anything he published. The 1983 Fawcett Crest paperback shown here has that Indiana Jones look to it which was no mistake by the publisher.

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