A teenager discovers that a victim of a 50-year-old plane crash isn’t yet at rest in this debut supernatural novel.
Fourteen-year-old Douglas Pledger isn’t thrilled when his family moves from Virginia to the small town of Elkton, Md., but when he explores a field near his new home, he encounters something extraordinary—the wreckage of a crashed jet that only he can see. His conversations with the colorful locals reveal that in 1963, Pan Am Flight 214 crashed in that same field, killing everyone aboard. Douglas soon befriends Dave Holt, a retired fireman who was one of the first responders to the scene. Together, they dig deeper into the events of that night and eventually contact Celeste Creeley, the cousin of Rose Kelly, a 12-year-old who died in the crash. Together, they discover that Rose’s restless spirit is trapped in the field, and only Douglas can help her find peace. Walcek spins a fanciful yarn, with healthy doses of the supernatural and, when an enterprising ghost hunter arrives on the scene, some high drama. It also effectively mixes fiction with fact: The novel’s characters are invented, but the descriptions of the plane’s final moments are drawn from real-life radio transmissions from a Pan Am flight. Although it’s a simple ghost story on the surface, it’s also an exploration of the ripple effects of disaster and how long-ago traumas can haunt people for decades. Unfortunately, its overwritten prose style slows the pace, and basic facts are often restated unnecessarily; one passage near the end of the book, for example, needlessly identifies Douglas as “a recently displaced teenager with enough on his plate from having been uprooted from his former home in Virginia.” Still, the burgeoning romance between Dave and Celeste is engaging, and readers will likely find it hard not to root for the sensitive, well-meaning Douglas as he desperately tries to make sense of the strange things happening around him.
A promising paranormal tale that ultimately fails to soar.