Latest Jack Handler Thriller Deals With Soo Locks Explosion
Review by Tyler R. Tichelaar
Sault: What Could be Worse than Great Lakes Erosion? is the fourteenth Jack Handler novel by Michael Carrier. That said, it can be read as a stand-alone book with little trouble. I have not yet read all of Michael Carrier’s books, but I have read the first several, so I was basically familiar with many of the main characters. Carrier makes it easy to follow the story, because he gives short, catch-up briefings on characters and events. Also, as a rather clever marketing strategy, he lets you know which books in the series to read if you want to know more about a character who previously made an appearance. Furthermore, at the end of the book is a summary of all the major characters in the series (though I wish this had been at the beginning).
If they have read the previous books, readers might feel a tad impatient with some of the back-story descriptions in the opening chapters, but Carrier moves through it clearly for new readers before venturing into the main story. The book soon becomes a page-turner.
Sault is really one of the most ingenious and frightening books in this series. The premise is that an explosion has happened at the Soo Locks. At first, it’s not clear who caused it or why, but it’s clearly some sort of terrorist act, whether domestic or international. I was a little disappointed that the explosion was not experienced directly by the main characters—there was a bit more telling than showing—but that’s because our hero, Jack Handler, is in New York when it happens. He’s there hunting down killers, and the narrative switches to New York to catch us up as Jack seeks closure for past wrongs from previous books. An entertaining couple of stupid criminals are involved in this escapade that takes place just before Jack learns of the explosion at the Sault.
Once Jack is aware of the terrorist event, he quickly returns to Michigan because his two adopted sons went on a fishing trip with his friend, nicknamed Legend, and now they are all missing. The explosion blew up two locks, causing a tsunami-like overflow of water through the locks and Great Lakes, causing all trace of the boys to be lost.
As Jack and his colleagues search for the boys, we learn more about the events leading up to the explosion. For some time, Legend has been theorizing that the Great Lakes’ water levels are artificially high because businessmen are manipulating them to make more money by being able to haul heavier cargoes while not having to spend money on dredging. The problem is the higher water levels threaten the homes and cabins of many who own lakeshore property. While the connection between the blowing up of the Soo Locks and water levels in the Great Lakes is not clear at first, as the novel progresses, more and more answers are found.
I won’t give away more of the plot, but there’s plenty of action for Jack Handler and the other characters. People are shot to be kept silent—the people who shoot them are also shot to be kept silent—and others are left stranded to die. Criminals operate under false names, and a former First Lady of the United States is involved in a crime-ring.
Best of all, readers will enjoy revisiting these characters and journeying back to the U.P., even if it has become devastated in many ways. The novel suggests the iron industry will suffer as a result of the destroyed locks, and an economic depression may ensue, but at least Jack Handler is able to right a few wrongs and save a few lives. He may not be Superman, but he can certainly handle most problems that come his way, so his name rather suits him.
If you like a good thriller, Michael Carrier is an author to check out. His plots are engaging, sometimes nail-biting, and his characters are as attractive and believable as any by Michael Connelly, James Patterson, or Steve Hamilton. And best of all, a fifteenth book, starting a new series within the series, is in the works.
— Tyler R. Tichelaar, PhD and award-winning author of When Teddy Came to Town and Kawbawgam: The Chief, The Legend, The Man