One one hand, wow can you tell that some of these books were written in the 80s. The energy crisis is top on everyone’s mind and the USSR still stands.
This lays the groundwork for a bizarre alternate reality where a North American Treaty was signed between the UK and the US with the former selling Canada to the latter for $1 billion . It’s a fairly ridiculous premise for a series that otherwise more or less takes place in our world, but that’s become something of par for the course for Dirk Pitt. And it doesn’t matter (in universe) anyways, since after the treaty was lost, two of the three copies were mysteriously lost: one in the (real life) ship wreck of the RMS Empress of Ireland (only 465 survivors out of 1477); the other lost when a train–The Manhattan Limited–falls through a bridge into a river.
It’s a crazy coincidence for the most part, but it does set up the part where the Dirk Pitt novels really shine: digging through historical documents to pin down where the ship and train are and then going through what I assume (given Cussler’s own experience) are more or less the real techniques that would be employed to salvage a ship/train from the bottom of their respective rivers. Also: ghost train. Because why not.
There’s also a strange Canadian politics / energy trade / Quebec independence plotline that I didn’t care overmuch for. That mostly acts as motivation and funding for a few of the weirder bits of the main plot.
Overall, it’s a fun adventure and nautical salvage book. Pitt remains the James Bond of ocean salvage, unable to fail, but that’s okay–he’s the BIG DAMN HERO.
Suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride. This is the Dirk Pitt I remember from high school.