Ward Larsen,
Fly By Wire
(Oceanview, 2010)

A new model of cargo plane has been developed by a multinational company (CargoAir), and this new plane, the C-500, resembles the "flying wing" design of America's B2 bomber (i.e., it looks like a boomerang). However, a C-500 crashes inexplicably in France, and a team gathers to solve the mystery.

Our protagonist, Jammer Davis, is an employee of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). He is not thrilled at being sent to France on an investigation that could last a year, but he is relentless.

Meanwhile an international Muslim extremist terrorist, nicknamed Caliph, orchestrates suicide bombing attacks on medium-sized oil refineries and their part suppliers, causing a worldwide panic and economic crisis. Caliph's only contact with the outside is an extremely unattractive, slovenly woman named Fatima Adara. No one knows why he trusts her alone as a personal courier. Could the plane crash and the terrorist attacks be linked? The CIA thinks so, and sends an agent to France as a member of the crash investigation team, posing as a representative from a component supplier for the aircraft.

The writing is crisp and fast-paced, despite a high level of setup information and a large cast of secondary characters. Jammer Davis comes off as a very real person, with strengths, weaknesses, quirks and a life outside of the storyline. Anna Sorenson, the CIA agent who does not really work for Honeywell, comes off as equally complex, although more enigmatic. Actually, many characters are not who and what they initially seem to be, and the large number of twists, turns, red herrings, dead ends and surprises in the plot make for a very, very enjoyable reading experience. I went into this book knowing little about the aviation industry and the mechanics of flying, but the many technical details were presented in ways that never left me feeling adrift.

Even as Ravel's great "Bolero" is a magnificent crescendo, so this novel starts quiet, slow and rich in detail. It moves forward with an ever-increasing pace, riveting the reader to the story as the tension, the mystery and the intrigue build. I am a fairly prolific reader, but not a fast one; yet, I read the last 73 pages of this 302-page novel in one 90-minute sitting. I was totally absorbed by the end, and I loved how the surprises kept coming, all while fitting together very credibly. If you like mysteries, this needs to be on your to-read list!

book review by
Chris McCallister

20 November 2010

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