No more heat for historical archaeologist Nicolette Scott. After excavating three lost airplanes in scorching deserts and steaming jungles (Track of the Scorpion, 1996, etc.) while envious colleagues at Berkeley were scuttling her tenure, she’s landed at the National Air and Space Museum and is headed into the frozen wastes of Alaska to uncover a Japanese “Val” bomber, the type that led the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Relieved and excited, Nick doesn’t wonder why a junior staffer like her has been selected to oversee a major expedition setting out dangerously close to winter when grizzly bears and blizzards are on the move, or question the philanthropic motives of E-Group, the pharmaceutical combine sponsoring the expedition. Luckily, an Inuit wildlife refuge ranger named Gus is on hand to read the storm warnings: physician Karen Royce is less interested that her charge Wes Erickson, the aging ace who shot down the Val, remain healthy than that he locate the plane; and Fred Ivins, henchman for nefarious E-group leader Jonathan McKenna, is unduly interested in a gold mining camp over the mountain. Only when the guns are unlimbered and the bodies start falling does Nick understand that her search for the Val is simply camouflaging Ivins’s quest for viral “gold.”
Readers who’ve wisely avoided the tell-all blurb will be kept wondering just what scheme is afoot; they’ll also be frustrated by untidy loose ends, unlikely combinations of realistic characters with cartoon grotesques, X-Files conspiracy politics, and a peek into the mind of a mama grizzly.