A ship goes down in unknown waters leaving only two survivors that know where a vast amount of Chinese heritage is located, a ship that a human trafficking Chinese businessman would do anything to find. Flood Tide is the fourteenth book of Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt with the titular character attempting to stop a human trafficking ring to the U.S. and preventing a massive economic and human disaster in Louisiana.
A ship taken by the retreating Nationalist government is loaded the national treasures of China before Mao’s Communists can get them in 1948, but before it reaches it’s destination it sinks in a violent storm with only the ship’s engineer and his girlfriend surviving on a freezing shore. In 2000 Dirk Pitt is vacationing and recovering from his injuries in Australia at Orion Lake when he realizes the cabin he borrowed has been search by the security of a Chinese businessman’s estate at the other end of the lake. Intrigued Pitt investigates only to find the mansion is a holding prison for illegal Chinese immigrants while the bottom of the lake is littered with dead bodies. Pitt saves new victims from drowning including an undercover INS agent and wrecks to the estate’s docking area before escaping down the Orion River to the Pacific from the security force. The INS raid the estate and the businessman Qin Shang begins damage control, including sending feelers to the White House and the President who he has given money to for his reelection campaign. Pitt teams up with Al Giordino to investigate a cruise ship in Hong Kong that Shang had bought and was refitting believing it’s to continue his illegal human trafficking ring, but find it empty except for automated guidance equipment that then navigates the ship across the Pacific without a crew. The pair return to the U.S. and Pitt along with the INS agent survive a car chase against Shang’s henchmen, but NUMA and the INS have a spat leading to them not working together anymore. Pitt and Giordino head to the Louisiana to investigate Shang’s shipping port that is in the middle of no where from the Mississippi when the duo figure out how his human trafficking network works in the area and again save the INS agent that Pitt keeps running into. Shang’s automated cruise ship arrives on the Mississippi River, but Pitt figured out Shang’s plan to redirect the flow of the Mississippi bypassing New Orleans and going to his out-of-the way port by blowing a levee and scuttling the cruise ship across the river. Pitt and Giordino takeover the ship and guide it into the levee’s breech to prevent a massive disaster. Shang flees to China where the Communist government will protect him while as there is battle in the U.S. between those he bribed against those who want him charged with terrorism. After learning everything to know about Shang including his search for the ship carrying his nation’s treasures, Pitt and NUMA discover the location of the wreck in Lake Michigan after talking with the survivor of the ship and his wife. NUMA, the Navy, and a Canadian salvage vessel recover everything before they leak the location into Shang’s channels. His massive ego leads Shang to arrive in Canada to border his own salvage vessel and goes down first only to find the ship empty with Pitt and Giordino springing a trap that send Shang to the bottom to die like all those at the bottom of Orion Lake. Admiral Sandecker and the head of the INS threaten the President to keep their own jobs with his own political future in the balance.
Having previously listened to the audiobook edition, I had completely forgotten about the Chinese treasure ship or Shang bribing of U.S. politicians but do remember the human trafficking and diverting the Mississippi plot points. That was because the human trafficking and Mississippi diversion plots were the good parts of the book while the other two were forgettable. Pitt comes off as superhuman given what he went through in Shock Wave while the INS agent Julia Marie Lee could have been a good character if not for becoming a multiple time damsel-in-distress character. Qin Shang could have been an interesting antagonist if not for some the trope material that Cussler saddled him especially at the end of the book. In fact, Cussler’s politics are heavy handed throughout the book and his “not-Clinton” but totally Clinton President were a little too much for my tastes.
Shock Wave is a okay book at best and felt a like downgrade in quality from Clive Cussler’s previous installments of his bestselling series. While not as bad as some of the early books in the series, this book was a disappointment given the good elements that were undermined by the bad.