I’ve got a few minutes before I’m due back in court, so I thought I’d wallow in nostalgia for a while and pick up Valhalla Rising again – it feels like sweet years since I’ve even thought about it.

Change of approach to the sea monster from now on, because life is too short to go through it chapter by page. Instead, we’ll have a plot summary of a reasonable subsection of the novel, examining a particular theme or detail as we do.

Ready? Here we go!

When we left our herpes, Dirk Pitt® had just unexpectedly lubed up Al Giordino in his cabin – but this is going to be left unexplored territory for now, because there is actual unexplored territory to be, er, explored. Charged with locating the sad wreckage of Emerald Dolphin, Pitt® and Al prepare to dive to the very bottom of the sea to find her sunken bones (I’m almost shedding a happy tear to be back with all these familiar friends). How will they achieve this? First by introducing a new poorly named friend in Sea Sleuth, an “autonomous underwater vehicle” (AUV, or “a swimming camera”), with which they find the wreck on their very first try, delve inside her and discover that the reason for her so rapid sinking was due to explosives – sabotage!

This is more of a revelation to them than to us, since this has been an established fact for about 130 pages. Having their target in sight, Pitt® and Al prepare to investigate first hand in the Abyss Navigator, a clumsily named four-man submersible, to find the proof they need. First they must select someone to join them on their trip to the bottom – and to prove that one woman is worth two men they select Misty Graham.

Ah, Misty.

Misty was a petite woman, full of fire and vinegar which sounds like a yeast infection to me. Her black hair cropped short for easy maintenance on board ship, she might have looked boyish disgusting if she didn’t have well defined construction Ah: titties, good. With light brown eyes under a pert little nose and soft lips, Misty had never been married thus proving herself a failure as a female.

So, down they go – in only the most literal of manners, mind you – nosing around in the wreckage and, on their very first try (again), discovering a mystery object at the site of the fire’s outbreak that will prove to have been the cause. Not a bad day’s work – but when they get back to the surface there is no sign of the Deep Encounter… they have been abandoned at sea…

…in fact, it’s worse: Deep Encounter has been hijacked! With the only competent men playing around at the bottom of the sea, a high-speed vessel arrives, a band of armed villains trick their way on board and take everyone hostage at gunpoint. The characterisation is typically villainous –

The hijacker did not look like a pirate, no peg leg, parrot or eye patch.

– demonstrating that Cussler understands his readers are not of the under-eight age group. So – what are two men and one unmarried woman going to do while they wait for death on the high seas, in a single-room submersible ,with no food or fresh water, no emergency flares – nothing but the lithe warm bodies that god gave them?

Well, improvising sources of food and water, they do everything but the obvious (apart from die), even though they have no way to flag down the rescue plane that fails to spot them, no doubt dooming them without hope.

“Then how will they ever find us?” Misty asked, her resolve beginning to crack. After a week of eating nothing but fish and going toilet with two sailors within arm’s reach, I’m not surprised.

Pitt® gave her a comforting smile and hugged her. “The law of averages,” he said, totally misunderstanding the concept. “They’re bound to catch up.”

“Besides,” Giordino chimed in, “we’re lucky. Aren’t we pal?”

“As lucky as they come. Now ram me, you Italian stallion.

Misty wiped a glistening eye, straightened her blouse and shorts wow, she really was worried and ran a hand through her cropped hair. “Forgive me. I’m not as tough as I thought I was.”

I can see why she lives alone, panic-stricken bimbo like that, her parents should have been sterilised. However, with things looking so grim for our beloved champions, their creator, Clive Cussler, having arranged a situation for them so dire that no logical escape can possibly be conceived – rescue arrives! Hearing the sound of classical music floating across the waves one night, they wave their failing flash light and scream for help – and just as it seems the passing ship will pass like a ship in the night, it turns.

The captain of this heroic vessel is quite a striking figure – in fact, you may wonder why I didn’t mention him in my run down of such naval characters a few months ago.

He was a large man, the same height as Pitt® but fifteen pounds heavier. He was also thirty years older. His grey hair and beard gave him the appearance of an old waterfront wharf rat. His, naturally, blue-green eyes had a glint to them, and he readily smiled as he examined his catch.

He welcomes them on board, ready to give them everything they need – but the first thing Pitt® wants is to report the crisis’s to Admiral Sandecker.

The old man nodded. “Of course. Come on up to the wheelhouse. You can use the ship-to-shore radio or the satellite telephone. You can even send e-mail if you wish. The Periwinkle has the finest communications systems of any yacht on the water.” The Periwinkle, eh? Sounds like baby talk for one’s wee-wee to me. Given their skill for naming boats these two should get on like a house on fire.

Pitt® studied the old man. “We’ve met before.”

“Yes, I suspect we have.”

“My name is Dirk Pitt®.” He turned to the others. “My shipmates, Misty Graham and Al Giordino.”

The old man warmly shook hands with all. Then he turned and grinned at Pitt®.

“I’m Clive Cussler.”