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As readers of Sam 7 or The Botticelli Madonna well know, Cox invests his solid, uninspired thrillers with technical details of one sort or another--and here they arrive with the minute reenactment of an aircraft-accident investigation. The plane in question is Western Aircraft's brand-new 702 jetliner--Britain's bid to stay in the international aerospace industry. And there's a crash, during the plane's first demonstration flight, becuase of Western's foul shop steward Ken Norris: he's an ambitious labor organizer with an anti-capitalist grudge (his mother's unfair dismissal and subsequent demise) and a money-seeking estranged wife. So, when KGB bigwigs at London's Russian embassy feed him propaganda and cash, Norris is persuaded to sabotage the plane--which he does with help from Brunner, a leftist who works in the plant's heat-treatment shop: a vital batch of alloyed plates for the rear fuselage is under-treated, the tail splits open during the demonstration, the cables to the flight recorders are ruptured, and the plane goes straight down nose-first. The novel then focuses largely on top UK accident-investigator Jim Donaldson, who, step by patient step, reveals the process by which the jet was sabotaged and the contributions of Norris and Brunner. And, finally, Norris is murdered by the KGB before Donaldson can arrest him. No big shoot-ups, a leisurely pace--but Norris (though entirely unlikable) is fairly intriguing as a study in treason, and those interested in aviation technology will get all the facts they could possibly want.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Vikin