Colt’s Crisis, the first in a promised series of thrillers featuring protagonist Colt Garrett was published a couple months ago. I received a copy to review for The JOLT, and I found the book to be a fast-paced and enjoyable experience.
Local readers will certainly enjoy the myriad references to Puget Sound localities that author Tom Carroll sprinkles in throughout the book, including Garrett’s home in Olympia, a coffee shop in Bremerton, and Joint Base Lewis–McChord (including a jab at the northbound traffic which I enjoyed).
The plot follows newly appointed acting Secretary of Defense Colt Garrett through a mission to the USS Ronald Reagan, where is he immediately forced to deal with the revelation of a rogue South Korean general’s theft of American biological warheads, and the simultaneous discovery of a Russian assassination plot against him. Woven in with these military concerns are Colt’s rocky relationship with his son, Dan, and an antagonistic Navy Admiral Joe Carlisle. (Perhaps the book could have been named Colt’s Crises, although the plural seems a bit less punchy.)
The plot threads together many elements of military thrillers: the subterfuge of several nations sparring in covert ops while publicly denying any knowledge or involvement; the identification of double-agents aboard the aircraft carrier to foil the assassination plot; a secret midnight raid on a military facility by Navy SEALs. And of course, what military thriller would be complete without a high-ranking colonel sharing secrets in bed to a much-younger girlfriend who is secretly a spy for an enemy nation?
The book does a great job of being fast-paced – almost too fast at times! I found the pacing to be inconsistent, as the first fifth of the novel is spent on the characters’ backgrounds. It’s only on page 73 when Colt actually becomes the Secretary of Defense, perhaps the first major plot development. But thereafter, things sure do pick up!
The book is broken down into 12 major “acts”, one for every day of the plot. However, each “day” is then broken down into countless scenes, each lasting on a few pages at most. The reader is taken on a dizzying whirlwind from location to location, often only getting a sentence or two detailing the visuals before two or three characters have a conversation lasting only a few sentences, before cutting to the next scene. The book almost reads more like a script for a television show given the feeling that we only get to observe the main characters for a minute or two of their lives before getting sucked back into the teleporter.
That said, the fast pace kept this reader on the edge of his seat! I particularly enjoyed the description of a covert military operation to storm an island where the biological warheads are being kept. Another exciting moment occurs during an aircraft exercise which finds both father and son in the pilots’ chairs – suddenly struggling for their lives, the two Garretts manage to successfully land the plane and yet make a touching emotional connection.
The spy-vs-spy activity onboard the USS Ronald Reagan also keeps the readers guessing until the very end. Who aboard the ship is secretly working for the Russians to assassinate the acting Secretary of Defense, and how are they planning on doing it? With time running out, the good guys have to use every resource available to expose the assassins!
I’m curious to see is whether Colt himself engages in any action scenes. He’s not depicted as an action hero, and while the book does make use of Navy SEALs for a brief action scene, Colt as the protagonist has yet to fire his weapon in the line of duty, or really to have any overt aggressive conflict with any other characters. He does however score almost unbelievably high marks in his first practice session with a new weapon, which almost sets his character up for some kind of showdown in future storylines!
Overall, I found the book to be quite enjoyable and fun to read. That said, I would have liked the characters to have been developed a bit more; they were one-dimensional at times. For example, Admiral Carlisle is a bit over-the-top in his role as the petulant, immature antagonist who struggles with authority, and Colt Garrett doesn’t seem capable of even considering a course of action that is out of alignment with his strong sense of ethos. A few tropes make it onboard, such as the spy girlfriend and the use of a video game as a means of communication by double-agents (a plot device also recently used in the recent Jack Ryan television show).
Although this is Tom Carroll’s first novel, it’s pretty clear he knows the territory covered in it. He served 30 years as a US Navy officer, specializing in special intelligence and surface warfare. He runs an information technology firm based in Olympia.
Here’s to more adventures with Colt Garrett! The next installment, according to Carroll’s website, is due in December 2021.
Daniel Hu is a freelance writer based in Olympia.
The JOLT is always looking to review new books published by local authors or about local subjects. If you've got one, please let us know about it.