Debut author Cameron reimagines two real-life plane crashes as the work of depraved contract killers.
Brad and Elizabeth Badger seem to be a normal couple in their early 30s, but it’s an illusion that belies their occupation. As the novel opens, Elizabeth is finishing up a contract hit on a Mafia don who’s exiting the witness protection program. Back at home, Brad has already received instructions for their next job; the orders and cash payments arrive via pizza box from a mysterious source who seeks the untimely end of a “Mr. X.” Elizabeth is anxious to quit her hit woman lifestyle and return to a normal life, but Brad convinces her that the $500,000 they’ll receive will make it all worthwhile. The two concoct a plan to kill Mr. X by bringing down a commercial airplane, destroying their fuel tanks by radio control. They’re due to receive another $500,000 one year after the hit is completed if there’s no homicide investigation, so they go to great lengths to make sure that the authorities won’t know the identity of the intended target or the cause of the crash. It all goes as planned except for one thing: National Transportation Safety Board investigator Art Campos comes across a photo taken near the crash site in which Elizabeth is shown laughing at the destruction. This single clue leads him on a jet-setting investigation, and the Badgers play a game of cat and mouse as they plan their next hit. Cameron reworks two actual unsolved 737 crashes from the 1990s to form the basis for his thriller. As a pilot, he writes with authority about airplanes and simulators and has a good plan for how the killers might get away with their mission. The novel is short and tightly written, with some well-imagined characters; as the hero, Art Campos is a perfectly likable, competent investigator. However, he could have been fleshed out more, and the book’s second half could have gone into much more detail about the investigators’ reactions to horrific plane crashes. There are also some annoyingly generic descriptions; too many buildings are described as “middle class,” for example. If Cameron can develop his future storylines and characters to a level worthy of the subject matter, his planned sequel may prove more satisfying.
A taut crime novel with a likable hero but that can’t overcome its structural issues.