I wanted to enjoy 'Golden Buddha' when it first came out -- I REALLY did...but as another reviewer noted, with Juan Cabrillo and the ENDLESS cast of secondary characters that popped up on virtually every single page, I found myself less concerned with where the plot was going, and more on racking my memory for WHO this person was, and had they been introduced before, or are they brand new? I think ANY time a novel feels the need to place a directory at the beginning of the book to remind you of who is IN the book, and it STILL doesn't help, I think you have an idea of where everything is going to end up.
When all is said and done, I STILL enjoyed the first two Oregon Files novels more than I initially thought I would, but I MUST admit they were well below the usual entertainment I have come to expect from the typical Dirk Pitt novels or the NUMA Files stories. On the opposite side, I discovered Jack Du Brul's books about 5-6 years ago and I instantly recognized him as Cussler's Heir when and if he ever stopped writing full-time (which he basically has now that his son has taken over the Dirk Pitt series, and Paul Kemprecos does the bulk of the NUMA novels). I have had the great fortune of having interviewed Mr. Du Brul in the past and found him to be just one really great guy who loves reading Action/Adventure novels every bit as much as the rest of us. It certainly shows in his Phillip Mercer novels (ALL of which are excellent, by the way). I see a great deal of wisdom in Cussler making a move away from Craig Dirgo as a co-author and adding Du Brul to his stable of incredibly successful tales.
I KNEW 'Dark Watch' would be without-a-doubt the BEST Oregon Files book to date before I even read it. You can tell from virtually the very first page Du Brul's influence over this series. As another reviewer noted, if you want absolute reality, go read Clancy...however, if you are looking to spend several hours in the world of espionage cloaked in a world of tremendous adventure and quite literally dripping with action and quite a bit of humor, this book definitely fills the bill quite nicely.
First and foremost I noticed rapidly that the introduction of a 'Cast of Thousands' has been done away with. Certainly they all still exist, but the need to make every single one a major player in the storyline no longer dilutes the tale. Kudos to Du Brul for making this drastic -- but absolutely necessary change. One can now concentrate on the here and now and better follow everything going on. Once again, if you are looking for a novel which stretches your intellect or helps you come away feeling better about life in general, you may as well look elsewhere...but for me, I simply enjoy a fun book now and again -- especially one that is written with a great deal of talent. 'Dark Watch' is most assuredly one of those tales. I WILL go so far as say that as good as this book is, the Phillip Mercer books are ALL better...(check out Vulcan's Forge, Charon's Landing, The Medusa Stone, Pandora's Curse, River of Ruin and Deep Fire Rising). If you have tried and gave up on the Oregon Files based on the previous two, I think you OWE it to yourself to see how Cussler has in fact redeemed himself -- or rather, see how Jack Du Brul has done it FOR him. Grand adventure well done!