TERMINAL EVENT by James Thayer


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Superbly crafted thriller from the prolific Thayer (Five Past Midnight, 1997, etc.). “A surgeon doesn’t operate on his own family members,” National Transporation Safety Board site commander Richard Shrader warns former NTSB investigator Joe Durant when Durant demands his old job back. “Are you going to be able to work on the incident that killed your wife?” Durant hopes it will be good therapy for him to wander the five-mile trail of wreckage on a lonely mountainside 60 miles east of Seattle, though admittedly he doesn’t look forward to finding his estranged wife among the mangled bits of aircraft and flesh. But he has another motive. A somewhat flabby engineer who plays harmonica in a blues band and loses his lunch at the sight of blood, Durant is also hoping to find out why his wife, who—d been coming to visit their 15-year-old daughter, Sarah, had left him several months before. After getting a six-month leave of absence from Boeing, he’s paired with tough-as-nails FBI “priest” Linda Dillon, an unhappily married expert at prying confessions out of hardened criminals. As Thayer piles on fascinating details about crash-scene procedures and computerized duplications of the terrifying last minutes the passengers endured, he tweaks the thriller formula by giving Durant the coolest head: while Durant suspects that faulty wiring near a fuel tank produced a spark that blew up the plane, the FBI pounces on an anonymous bomber’s threatening letter and goes on a multi-state manhunt for crazed Idaho militia renegades, Arab terrorists, and even a drug dealer using the plane to transport a stash of cash—red herrings all. Lucid prose and expert pacing keep the excitement high, even if the low-key climax, following so much intricately described detective work, comes off forced. A smoothly entertaining return to form after Thayer’s excellent historical pastiche, Man of the Century (1997), that will make airport buyers want to miss their flights.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84210-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999


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