A nonfiction mystery revolving around the identity of a legendary criminal who has never been apprehended.
A few years ago, New York magazine contributing editor Gray heard a passing reference to the hijacking of a commercial passenger plane in 1971. When the author realized that the hijacker, who boarded using the name Don Cooper and because of imprecise media coverage eventually become known as D.B. Cooper, seemed to have committed the perfect crime, he began researching a feature story decades after the breaking news. After announcing the hijacking while the plane was airborne, Cooper demanded $200,000 cash and parachute equipment to make his eventual escape. Airline and law-enforcement authorities provided the money and the parachutes after the plane landed. Then those authorities allowed another takeoff after the passengers left the plane safely. Gray located members of the crew from the flight as well as passengers, law-enforcement agents, amateur sleuths obsessed with the unsolved hijacking and experts of all sorts, especially regarding airplanes and parachuting. At first, the author fell under the sway of Lyle Christiansen, an octogenarian trying to sell film rights to the saga. Christiansen claimed he possessed documentation proving that his brother Kenny, deceased since 1994, had committed the crime. The narrative tension is built upon parallel story lines: Gray's re-creation of the crime (including the unsuccessful law-enforcement investigations) and his own investigation to learn Cooper's real name. It turns out that Kenny Christiansen is a credible possibility, but so are at least two other individuals out of thousands whose names have been bandied about. As the story unfolds, Gray becomes aware of his obsession with the search by himself and other sleuths, and his self-deprecation about his unexpected obsession sets the tone.
A thoroughly researched, quirkily written saga suggesting that truth is, in fact, often stranger than fiction.