CONTRAILS by Robert Anderson


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In Anderson’s debut thriller, a grounded pilot launches a new career as a drug runner.

Civil Air pilot Sam Claymore can handle himself in the sky, but dealing with life on the ground is another story. Rushing to the gate for an early morning flight, the young airman can barely endure overzealous TSA agents, needy passengers and one unfortunate Starbucks barista. “This is what traveling has become: standing in line,” he laments. One bright spot is flight attendant Victoria Knight, who draws Sam in with her exotic looks and “chameleon quality of being two people at once.” While Sam skewers baggage fees and airport prices for bottled water, he also gives readers a convincing feel for the day-to-day life of an airline pilot. From the details of preflight inspection to FAA rules on alcohol consumption, the author shows an impressive knowledge of the job—and its potential for absurdity. Humorous episodes include a debate in the cockpit over whether aliens built the pyramids and a spot-on observation about airborne psychology: “Passengers listen to pilot announcements like religious fanatics listen to prophets, their collective fate dangling on the intrepid voice of the faceless air god.” Less fresh is Sam’s descent into narcotics trafficking after he loses his job. Strapped for cash, he leaps at a job offer from a childhood friend, Nate McFadden. Long after most readers will have connected the dots, Sam realizes the job is flying kilos of cocaine across the country, but he’s swayed by the lure of easy money. As his bankroll thickens and his nasal passages inflame, Sam follows the clichéd path toward the infamous “one last job” scenario. Even though the novel bends to genre conventions in its second half, the fast-paced plot and quick-fire dialogue keep things cruising.

This airline tell-all and comical crime tale is recommended in-flight reading.

Pub Date: March 31st, 2012
Page count: 261pp
Publisher: Intrepid Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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