May 30, 2010

Even though I read suspense novels virtually back to back for BookPage, I find that my relaxation reading is quite often in the same genre. I do manage to fit in works from a handful of favorite non-mystery authors (Haruki Murakami, Pico Iyer, John McPhee, Michael Sims, Pat Conroy, to name a few), and occasionally some higher-minded stuff (Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, periodic rereadings of Mark Twain), but for the most part, I devour mysteries the way a gourmand snarfs down bacon.

The most recent denizen of my bedside table is Dana Haynes’ debut thriller, Crashers. The title refers to the informal name given to those who investigate airplane crashes, initially the National Transportation Safety Board; if there is evidence of sabotage, as in this case, police agencies (including the FBI) are quickly added to the mix.

Typically it takes months for the team to assess all of the data, but no such luxury will be afforded them this time around; disturbing indications point to the notion that this crash is nothing more than a trial run for a larger and more important piece of aircraft demolition three days hence, a crash with potentially global ramifications.  

On the job are head honcho Susan Tanaka, equally sharp of dress and mind; draftee Leonard “Tommy” Tomzak, pathologist and somewhat unwilling investigator in charge; humorless and self-confident Korean-American investigator Peter Kim;  Walter Mulroney, a growly old bear who knows airplanes better than anyone since Orville and Wilbur Wright; Dennis Silverman, electron-boy from Gamelan Industries, the maker of the latest in high tech in-flight recorders (the orange box, known colloquially as the “black box” (hey, if you think that is weird, when was the last time you saw a green “green card” or a pink “pink slip”?); FBI-guy Ray Calabrese, and his sidekick Lucas Bell, working from opposite ends of the country, and perhaps opposite ends of the playing field as well; and Kathryn “Kiki” Duvall, one of the first women to serve aboard a submarine, and a leading expert on sound. Together this diverse team will have to pull out all the stops if they are to have any hope of preventing imminent and exponentially greater disaster. Trouble is, somebody on the inside has a vested interest in misleading the investigation…

The adjectives that typically come to mind with regard to thrillers (gripping, tense, fast-paced) all fall somewhat short of the mark in the case of Crashers; something with a higher degree of ferocity is required (pit-bullish, stroke-inducing, warp-speed-paced…?). Seriously, though, this is a book for adrenaline junkies; it grabs you by the frontal lobes right at the outset and doesn’t let go until the last page. (Picture a jumbo jet landing on an interstate highway, touching down in the oncoming lanes, skirting overpasses and avoiding big-rigs, and you begin to get an idea of the relentless intensity of Crashers!)