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D.B. by Elwood Reid


by Elwood Reid

Pub Date: July 13th, 2004
ISBN: 0-385-49738-5
Publisher: Doubleday

The title’s initials refer to D.B. Cooper, the 1971 hijacker, you may remember, who vanished into thin air. Here, Reid (Midnight Sun, 2000, etc.) imagines his subsequent life.

Cooper, who threatened to blow up a Portland-to-Seattle flight, became a folk hero to some when, after the airline met his demand for $200,000 and parachutes, he jumped from the plane and was never found. All this Reid reconstructs in his taut prologue—savor it, for no subsequent suspense comes close. Picking up the story in 1984, the main narrative proceeds on two tracks. One sticks with Cooper, now in Mexico; the other follows Frank Marshall, one of the FBI agents involved in the 1971 manhunt. In Reid’s depiction, the hijacking is Cooper’s finest hour. Previously he had been “another lunchbox working-class joe,” a Vietnam vet living in a trailer, dumped by his waitress wife. Then he has a brainstorm: a bomb (actually a clever fake) and a brilliant exit strategy. Back on the ground—his escape to Mexico gets short shrift—he is a loser again, albeit a loser with money. He hangs out with some trust-fund hippies in their jungle camp before buying a little beach house and taking up with Inez, a morose but sexy Mexican. Cooper can’t resist showing her the loot; Inez uses thieves to clean him out, and he must return to the Northwest to retrieve the rest of his stash from the farm of a fellow veteran. Meanwhile, in Portland, the newly retired Marshall is badgered by a gung-ho young agent to help him work on old Cooper leads. There is much more about Marshall’s tension-filled marriage and unconsummated longing for the wife of a murderous drug dealer, but it’s all wheel-spinning. At the very end, pursuer and pursued cross paths, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Cooper will get a second lucky break.

A sour, painfully slow tale, with two dull protagonists.