In De Vivo’s debut novel, a brutal hijacking prompts a man to search his soul and reinvestigate his faith.
A team of hijackers boards Laird Airlines Flight 73, a Boeing 767 nicknamed the “Empress of the Seas,” while it’s still on the runway at Islamabad International Airport. At the cost of her own life, the flight’s purser alerts the pilots, who manage to escape out the cockpit windows, leaving the gunmen unable to get the plane off the ground. As they angrily negotiate with airport personnel for a replacement crew, they start murdering passengers. Finally, the gunmen escape by using a family as human shields, and the plane is retaken. First Class crew member Fatima “Teema” Allaire later recounts it all in riveting detail to Jude Priore, a lawyer at the firm of Timmons Gaylord, which Laird has hired to investigate the incident. Priore is a skilled professional, but he’s taken aback when Teema ends her account by grimly saying, “May the God they pray to ask for mercy Himself.” Later, when he’s examining the plane, Priore asks himself, “Where was God today?” The tragedy evokes a crisis of faith in Priore, and De Vivo, with considerable skill, plays this against the investigation into the identity, history and current whereabouts of the hijackers. The author expands his story to include a large cast of well-drawn, international characters, and he later weaves a subplot about corporate machinations into his main hijacking story, but Priore’s turmoil is the main attraction here. Some of the author’s attributions are a bit off; in his acknowledgements, for instance, he admits that a quote he attributes to David Hume doesn’t actually occur in the work he cites and he erroneously states that Osama bin Laden was “captured and subsequently assassinated by United States Navy Seals” in 2012. (It was 2011.) However, such details hardly detract from the controlled power of the main plotlines. Overall, it’s a well-done procedural thriller, mapped on top of a searching exploration of philosophical issues.
An intelligent, gripping thriller about the deeper implications of a tragedy.