Gorgeous archaeologist in formula thriller peril--thanks to the discovery of a WW II bomber, buried for 50 years in the sands of New Mexico, and the unraveling of a heinous military-industrial conspiracy. Prof. Nickolette (``Nick'') Scott--Berkeley, untenured--is spending the summer in the brutally hot Badlands, helping her famous father excavate ancient Indian ruins. But Nick's own passion is digging up the recent past--so she can't resist the challenge when old prospector Gus Beckstead claims that he's uncovered the wing of an airplane. It's an incredible find: an American B-17, with 11 dead bodies aboard (the ten-man crew plus one mystery passenger), which was somehow shot down over the US circa 1945! Before Nick can begin the dig in earnest, however, the novel's cartoonish mega-villain--billionaire Leland Hatch, who ``owns'' numerous generals--sets a massive, often implausible coverup in motion. Beckstead is murdered; the B-17 disappears virtually overnight; Nick's academic career is sabotaged. Unfazed, as additional bodies drop around her, she sets out on a quest (guided by a diary found on the plane) to learn the how and why of the B- 17's downing. These opening chapters are fairly promising--with intriguing details of archaeological procedure, persuasive desert- town atmosphere, and that buried plane with its mummified crew (the WW II secret itself--involving Los Alamos and a foiled bit for peace--is serviceable enough). But Nick doesn't hold much character interest, despite some psychological wrangling about her dysfunctional mom and workaholic dad, so it's quite a wait for the conclusion--a painfully contrived death-duel in the desert between intrepid Nick and old Leland Hatch himself. Despite all the appeals, first-novelist Davis brings little conviction, and no originality, to conspiracy-suspense gambits limply reminiscent of Days of the Condor, Pelican Brief, and everything in between.