Sunday, May 31, 2009

Terminal Event (Thayer, James)

Rating: 3.5
Year: 1999
Genre: Techno-Mystery
Read again? In a few years

Yup. Another disaster to stave off reading more Lackey!

Joe Durant is a former NTSB air-crash investigator; he left because he couldn't handle the guts and gore from people being torn apart at 200 miles per hour.

Joe's wife dies in the crash of Emerald Air Flight 37, a mid-size turboprop commuter plane. All 63 people aboard are killed, and Thayer is remorseless in taking us with Joe as he hikes through deep snow to reach the wreck site. His path is littered with bodies and parts of bodies.

He's hired on by the NTSB as a liaison to the FBI. In return, the FBI send their own liaison, Special Agent Linda Dillon.

The investigation begins. The black boxes are quickly found and taken back to D.C. for processing. The wreckage is plotted, tagged, and identified, then reassembled in a local hangar. The bodies and bits are tagged and bagged and identified.

It quickly becomes obvious that there was an explosion, based on structural damage to the airframe and on leg and ankle fractures on the passengers.

A bear poacher claims he saw a missile launched at Flight 37. The FBI guys start looking at crazy right-wing nutjobs.

NTSB investigators find cracked insulation on wiring. There were issues with electrical systems near one fuel tank. Joe thinks this is what brought the plane down: a spark in the center fuel tank.

Then one of the dead is identified as a Saudi prince; he and his two bodyguards were traveling incognito. Was it an assassination?

A box with $100,000 in drug money was found by some dim bulb in a trailer park; she goes on an $80,000 shopping spree. Then the Feds come sniffing around. Was it a drug hit that brought down Flight 37?

The CEO of the airline is attacked and savagely beaten.

Thayer's style is easy enough to read, though the book did drag somewhat. Thayer goes a bit overboard in explaining and detailing things (at least three people sported noses that had been broken and badly-set sometime in their past, including Joe himself). His characters don't seem to use colloquialisms very well--who, in casual conversation, refers to a "Harley" motorcycle only by the full name "Harley-Davidson"?

For that matter, who calls eye sockets "eyeball sockets"? I don't know whether Thayer was trying to be funny or not.

The story's not as convoluted as Nance's "Final Approach" and the ending is much less satisfying. The final act of nailing the bad guy went several pages too long, especially with the "cavalry saving the day" bit with the FBI agent.


Anonymous said...

With two airplane disasters in a row, I have to ask if you've ever read Cold Fire by Dean Koontz, written before he started with the Christian themes. It has the very best description of a plane wreck I have ever read. It's not a disaster story, and the place crash is just one episode, but it's breath taking. --LR

JW said...

I've only read one of Koontz' books--Ice Sub Zero or somesuch.

Anonymous said...

I bet you're thinking of Stephen Coonts, who has written about warfare. Dean Koontz used to be an excellent writer before he got into Christianity and made the supernatural elements of his books god and angels and stuff.

But before that, he produced Cold Fire and Lightning, both of which I highly recommend for when you need another break from Lackey or reality or whatever. He's terrified of flying to the extent he won't travel to book events of any sort, and after reading the plane crash in Cold fire, I think the reason why is pretty evident. --LR