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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Refusing to rest on her laurels after winning an Edgar Award for her seventh novel, the succinctly titled Bones, popular suspense novelist Jan Burke made an effective departure from all her earlier books, all of which featured feisty California journalist Irene Kelly. Flight places Irene in a subordinate role, focusing instead on her husband, veteran homicide detective Frank Harriman.
The story opens with an extended prologue in which Las Piernas homicide investigator Phil Lefebvre, responding to an anonymous phone call, stumbles across the corpses of wealthy industrialist Trent Randolph and his teenage daughter, Amanda. He also discovers Randolph's badly wounded young son, Seth, and saves the boy's life. Lefebvre then mounts an investigation that successfully implicates local crime lord Whitey Dane. Before Dane can be brought to trial, three things happen. Seth Randolph is murdered in his hospital room; virtually all forensic evidence disappears; and Phil Lefebvre flees from the scene in a small private plane. The case against Dane disintegrates, and Lefebvre vanishes without a trace, leaving unanswered questions -- and a shattered reputation -- in his wake.
Ten years later, hikers discover Lefebvre's mummified corpse amid the wreckage of his plane, which had crashed in the San Bernardino Mountains shortly after takeoff. The long-dormant case is reopened, and Frank Harriman begins to reinvestigate. He quickly learns that the downed plane had been sabotaged and comes to believe that Lefebvre -- whose name has become anathema in the Las Piernas Police Department -- may have been a victim, not a murderer-for-hire. Frank's defense of Lefebvre isolates him from his fellow officers and stirs up a proverbial hornet's nest of controversy and residual bitterness. At the same time, his painstaking investigation gradually captures the attention of the Looking Glass Man, a deranged killer who has successfully pursued his own violent agenda for more than a dozen years.
Flight is a gripping, consistently readable novel, but not a perfect one. The prose is occasionally pedestrian and the excessively elaborate plot sometimes strains credibility. The real heart of the novel -- and its primary source of pleasure -- lies in its subtle, cumulatively affecting presentation of two very similar men: Frank Harriman and Phil Lefebvre, decent, intuitive policemen with highly individual standards of ethical behavior. As Harriman follows in a dead man's footsteps, bringing Lefebvre's investigation to a belated -- and satisfying -- conclusion, Flight rises above its generic origins, acquiring an unmistakable emotional power that is all its own. (Bill Sheehan)
Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has been published by Subterranean Press (www.subterraneanpress.com).