Terrorists on the St. Lawrence Seaway

In the second installment of the Adirondack Treasure Trilogy, “Isle Royale,” co-authors Matthew Glavin and Michael Dolan build a sweeping tale of treasure, terrorism and old-fashioned Adirondack rambling.

The book is broader in scope and style than the first installment, though its pacing is ungainly. A lengthy exposition sets the stage for the second half’s gold and guns, which are worth the wait.

Glavin’s first novel, “The Bonaparte Legacy,” followed Joseph Benton’s fanatic fascination with a fabular family fortune, and stuck closely to the eyes and ears of its protagonist. At least half of this installment occurs out of Joseph’s ken, on a pair of nefarious Atlantic freighters and in secret government conferences.

The novel begins on one of these freighters, with an opening line as dead as its subject is destined to become:

“Abu Sankar, captain of the freighter, Nova, stood and watched.”

This chapter (and many that follow) is an imaginative reverie on the workings of a terrorist ship. While possibly an entertaining thought experiment for the authors, this story strand neither convinced me of its realism nor substantially advanced the plot. Other imaginative forays into government task forces rely heavily on acronyms and occur primarily in excruciating committee meetings.

The second narrative thread is a jocular journey with Joseph Benton and Jerry Doolin (wise-cracking treasure-hunters from the first installment), and their new acquaintance, bombshell and ex-Marine Savannah Christian.

In a nice nod to genre tropes, we first see the new-minted millionaire, Joseph, stepping to greet Savannah, “his hair still wet from the shower.” Their relationship progresses as steamily as suggested.

The Benton/Doolin/Christian narrative is the most lively and well-paced of the three, and contains the namesake Adirondack Treasure. This time it’s a coded diary from a St Lawrence Seaway engineer, hinting at an embezzled lode hidden in the late 18th century.

The narratives converge and heat up a little more than halfway through the book — far too late to keep a casual reader interested. At that point, though, the writing and plotting comes into its own, with a lengthy climax sequence involving a national emergency, AK-47s and Bond-worthy feats of yachtery.

One a line-by-line basis, the writing is acceptable, though Dolan and Glavin (not to assign blame to either party) adore the passive voice. Missiles “had been fired,” screams “could be heard,” and escape plans “had been reworked.” It isn’t necessarily an accident of co-authorship, but this installment of Adirondack Treasure lacks a single, decisive viewpoint.

Glavin and Dolan’s characters develop interesting quirks, including a Lieutenant Mickey Evans, who displays a nearly erotic passion for Taiko drumming. Doolin, ex-trooper, is a world-class classical guitarist with connections to a high-up data analyst in New Orleans. These idiosyncrasies liven the story and lighten its expository ponderosity.

While the American characters pop, the terrorists’ internality is both contrived and unsettling. Here’s one of their ruminations on the secularism and stability of the western world:

“There was no mayhem in the streets, no one committing unspeakable acts. He had to look to find any indication of religious leanings at all. No one was begging in the streets, few appeared to be homeless or hungry. Even the local police seemed friendly and relaxed.”

This single, soft-hearted terrorist stands in stark contrast to his compatriots, who fantasize about their heroic return to throngs of potential wives, clerical power and other trappings of an imagined Muslim beatitude.

If you’re in the market for a quick summer read, start at page 182. You’ll pick up the essentials of the backstory. If you’re looking for musings on the godlike American government and its god-fearing Islamic malefactors, begin at the beginning.

Glavin and Dolan published both books through Pyramid Publishing in Utica.

This review reflects the individual view of the reviewer, not the views of the Adirondack Center for Writing or the Enterprise.