In this sly debut thriller, the Indiana State Police and Air Force security personnel investigate the mystery of a corpse found in an old B-58 bomber.
In 1968, Indiana’s Grissom Air Force Base witnessed the unimaginable. As a B-58 bomber came in for a landing, it crashed to a smoking halt. The Air Force buried the mangled jet in a surrounding field and forgot about it. A few years later, Strategic Air Command surveyors discover the jet, dig it up and donate it to the Air Force museum. A curator finds a corpse, and Indiana State Police Detective Sgt. Gary Rawlings is called in to help; he teams with the motivated Staff Sgt. Beth Bush to solve the crime. The situation becomes dangerously complicated when Air Force Security Policeman Michael Bojack tangles with nighttime trespassers at the base. They kill a fellow officer and drive away but not without leaving behind a package of heroin—and a wallet. Bojack, decorated for bravery in Vietnam, pockets the wallet and begins his own search for the criminals. Rawlings, meanwhile, is frustrated when a Grissom wing commander tows the wrecked bomber onto the base, severely curtailing his investigation. Can the combined efforts of Bush, Rawlings and Bojack penetrate the conspiratorial thicket that connects global drug trafficking with a senator? Debut author Kelley unfurls his detailed mystery in a cool, dry voice; expertly described Air Force settings and protocol bring readers deep into the narrative. A uniform inspection, for example, reveals “[s]harp creases in well fitting dark blue trousers, polished leather gear uniformly carrying ammunition pouches…and the holstered Smith and Wesson .38 caliber Combat Masterpiece.” Kelley also has a flair for period details and humorous mid-1970s references: “Gary realized disco would be dead before he could jump through all the hoops.” But his tendencies toward detail and humor occasionally beleaguer what could be a leaner, meaner (and less sex-crazed) story, as when Bush is swimming and readers are told of her “tight, perfect bottom.” Still, this sprawling thriller concludes wonderfully.
Written with exactitude and a wink.