Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos, “White Death”

When Kurt Austin and his team of investigators stumble upon the mysterious Oceanus Corporation and their greedy plot to seize the world’s supply of fish, they take advantage of every tool, every mode of transportation, every person – and, for Kurt Austin, one attractive woman – to save the planet. Although farm fishing would not appear to be thrilling material for a spy novel, in White Death, with heroic Austin ready to save the day, it is a fresh topic, one that makes for a surprisingly action-packed novel.

Plot Overview: Murder, Conspiracy and Frankenfish

During the Spanish Inquisition, Diego Aguirrez, a Basque sailor known for his extraordinary skills on the sea, has two precious relics in his possession. With a ruthless investigator tracking him, he charts a course as far from Spain as he can get. Later, during the 1930s, a German Zeppelin crashes in the Arctic, not far from where Aguirrez was “lost” at sea.

Off the coast of the present-day Faroe Islands, the Sea Sentinel, a ship belonging to a radical environmentalist group, is protesting a local custom of capturing and killing pilot whales. When the Sea Sentinel suddenly powers toward a Danish cruiser, Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala are called on to rescue those trapped in the sinking ships.

Austin and Zavala quickly learn that the Sea Sentinel was sabotaged, and the crash was manipulated by an outside power source. As they follow clue after clue, the two men, and Paul and Gamay Trout, learn of the “Frankenfish,” a horrific species of otherwise harmless salmon that has been genetically altered. The Dr. Frankenstein of genetics, Frederick Barker, and his band of violent Inuit tribesmen will stop at nothing, not even Kurt Austin, to release the mutant fish into the world’s fresh water resources.

Criticisms and Compliments

White Death is a novel not so far-fetched, not so fantastic and not so removed from reality that it is plain unbelievable. It has elements of the ridiculous – like the so-called Frankenfish – but the plot and the dialogue are entertaining. Austin and Zavala have a collection of cheesy one-liners to pull out at every occasion, but they are, in this novel, humorous, adding levity to what are usually action-packed, sometimes violent scenes.

Like all of the NUMA Files novels, there are several plotlines that need to be tied together; in White Death, the connection between each plot is not too thin or outrageous, and Cussler and Kemprecos provide a neatly-tied bow of story threads at the end of the novel. White Death is an exciting, interesting read, one that features classic heroes and fantastically-depraved villains.


  • Cussler, Clive and Paul Kemprecos. White Death. Berkley, 2004 ISBN 9780425195451