No Return: A Novel

( 6 )

Overview

An F-18 Navy fighter careens out of the blue sky above the Mojave desert. A TV cameraman who grew up in a small town just miles away can see what is going to happen next. Frantically, Wes Stewart races to the downed jet and tries to save the pilot’s life. When the plane explodes, Wes escapes without harm—and plunges into a murderous conspiracy.

It’s been fifteen years since Wes has been back to the desolate land of his childhood. Now he finds himself up against the U.S. ...

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No Return: A Novel

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Overview

An F-18 Navy fighter careens out of the blue sky above the Mojave desert. A TV cameraman who grew up in a small town just miles away can see what is going to happen next. Frantically, Wes Stewart races to the downed jet and tries to save the pilot’s life. When the plane explodes, Wes escapes without harm—and plunges into a murderous conspiracy.

It’s been fifteen years since Wes has been back to the desolate land of his childhood. Now he finds himself up against the U.S. military, the local police, and someone who is tracking his every move. In the moments he spent with the dying pilot, Wes discovered something that could get him killed. But while he tries to untangle a web of lies and secrets surrounding the crash, another danger is stalking him. And this one he will never see coming.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
At the outset of this middling stand-alone from Battles (The Cleaner), Wes Stewart, a cameraman with a TV crew, is filming in the desert several hours north of Los Angeles when an F-18 Navy jet crashes just yards away. Wes makes a valiant effort to save the pilot, but the plane goes up in flames before Wes can extract him from the cockpit. Navy personnel question Wes, who’s hailed as a hero, but an article in the newspaper the next day is a surprise to Wes because the accompanying photo of the pilot isn’t of the man he tried to pull out of the plane. The ensuing attempt at a coverup, plus a dark secret from Wes’s past, threaten the lives of Wes and his TV crew. The succeeding twists will shock and surprise only those readers who are new to the thriller genre. Agent: John Hawkins & Associates. (Jan.)
From the Publisher

“Battles keeps layering on the suspense until you can hardly breathe.”—Linwood Barclay

No Return tells a story as clean and spare as the desert itself, stripped to the essentials: story, character, setting, emotion—and presented with an urgency that sets a new standard for pace. Brett Battles deserves thriller stardom.”—Tim Hallinan, author of The Queen of Patpong

“The best word I can use to describe his writing is addictive.”—James Rollins, New York Times bestselling author of The Devil’s Colony
 
“Sure-footed and clever, No Return is a great read.”—Meg Gardiner, author of The Nightmare Thief

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440245629
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 887,777
  • Product dimensions: 4.10 (w) x 6.80 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Brett Battles lives in Los Angeles and is the author of four novels in the acclaimed Jonathan Quinn series: The Cleaner, which was nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller and a Shamus Award for Best First Novel; The Deceived, which won the 2009 Barry Award for Best Thriller; Shadow of Betrayal; and The Silenced.
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Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER
1
A distant boom echoed faintly across the hills.

Wes Stewart peered at the sky. He recognized the sound, but it was one he hadn’t heard in years.

“What the hell was that?” Danny DeLeon asked.
He was holding the second camera.

“Sonic boom.”

Danny still looked confused, so Wes added, “You know, when a jet breaks the sound barrier.”

“Really?”

Wes squinted toward the western horizon, then raised his arm and pointed. “There. See him?”

Danny shaded his eyes. “I don’t see anything.”

“Flying south, just a little bit above the mountains.” Wes’s finger tracked the movement of the jet.

“No, I don’t. . . . Wait. It’s like a white dot.”

Wes nodded. “Yep.”

“That thing’s moving fast.”

“It’s a fighter jet, Danny. That’s what they do.”

“Damn.”

While it was novel to Danny, for Wes it was a reminder of a time when he would have barely noticed a sky full of jets.

“You guys set?” Dione Li, their producer/director, asked from behind them. She was leading a group of three others over to the base of the rock formation. The look on her face was pure Dione: ten percent annoyed, fifteen percent pissed, and one hundred percent determined. “We got a lot to do today, and I don’t want to mess around.”

“Same speech, different city,” Danny said through the side of his mouth.

“I’m sweating,” Monroe Banks announced, more an accusation than a statement.

“On it,” Anna Mendes called out. She whipped out a couple of Kleenex from the makeup utility belt around her waist and dabbed at a line of perspiration that had formed on Monroe’s forehead.

“Is it going to be this hot every day?” Monroe whined as she fanned herself with her hand.

Wes rolled his eyes. The last he’d checked, the temperature had been hovering around ninety-­two degrees, not so bad for mid-­day in the high Mojave Desert. Of course, that was because it was October—­not August, or July, or September, or June, or even May, when it seldom dipped below one hundred while the sun was out.

Donning her faux, producer-­mode smile, Dione stepped over to the spot she’d picked out earlier, then turned back to the others. “So, Monroe, we’ll have you stand right here for the intro shot. Behind you we’ll see the empty desert, then, as you finish, look to your right and follow the rock up. Wes will mimic your movement with the camera. Danny, I want you to get a wide shot from down the slope. Try to get as many of the formations—­”

“Pinnacles,” Wes corrected her.

“As many pinnacles,” Dione said, smirking, “as you can into the frame.”

Danny gave her a nod. “Will do.” He shuffle-­stepped down the small slope into position.

Their location was the Trona Pinnacles, a group of tufa deposits that stretched in an east–­west line across the dry bed of Searles Lake. It was a few hours north of Los Angeles, and twenty miles from Wes’s hometown of Ridgecrest, California. The Pinnacles had been formed by an ancient sea, and the best way Wes had ever heard them described was as a bunch of giant, caveless stalagmites.

Alison Pringle, the tallest member of the crew, slipped behind Wes. “Where do you want me so I’m not in your way?” she asked.

Wes pointed at a spot a few feet behind his position. “There should be good.”

She touched his arm just below his shoulder. “Thanks.” She smiled, then moved off.

While Monroe moved into position, Dione glanced at Alison. “Are we good with sound?”

“Monroe, can you give me a level?” Alison wore a pair of headphones that allowed her to monitor both Monroe’s voice and any ambient noises the host’s mic might pick up.

“One. Two. Three.”

“We’re fine,” Alison said.

“Four,” Monroe finished.

Dione turned her attention to Wes. “Set?”

Wes nodded.

She leaned toward him, and in a low voice asked, “You all right?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“You’re awfully quiet.”

Wes frowned. “No I’m not.”

“Whatever you want to think, but, yeah, you are.” She did a quick check of the rest of the crew, then said, “All right, Monroe. Whenever you’re ready.”

Monroe closed her eyes for a second. When she opened them again, an entirely different person emerged. The less-­than-­pleasant Monroe the crew had been subjected to since they’d arrived in Ridgecrest the night before had been replaced by the bright, friendly version the 1.3 million viewers of Close to Home were used to seeing.

“All right,” Dione said. “Here we go. And . . . Monroe.”

Monroe gave it a beat, then, “A vast nothingness. Brown for as far as the eye can see. A wasteland. A place no one would willingly visit, right?” Another beat. “If you believed that, then you’d be missing out on some of the most interesting and beautiful parts of the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles. Hi, I’m Monroe Banks, and welcome to another episode of Close to—­”

“Hold on,” Alison called out.

Dione groaned. “Seriously? She almost had it in one take.”

Alison had a hand pressing one side of her headphones tight against her skull. “I’m picking up a hum.”

“Electrical?” Wes asked.

Alison shook her head. “Don’t think so.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Dione said.

“It’s getting loud—­”

“I think I hear something,” Wes said. It wasn’t so much a hum as a rumbling whine.

“I hear it, too,” Monroe said, cocking her head.

A second later it was loud enough for everyone to hear.

Dione frowned. “What the hell is—­”

“Oh, God!” Danny cried out from the bottom of the slope.

He was staring off to the east.

Whatever he’d seen was hidden from the others by the massive pinnacle at their side. Wes half ran, half slid down the slope toward his fellow cameraman.

“Where are you going?” Dione shouted after him. “I want to get this shot off.”

She hadn’t seen the look on Danny’s face. Wes had. Danny was terrified.

As Wes skidded to a stop he turned his head to follow Danny’s gaze, but it took a moment for his mind to actually figure out what he was seeing.

A military jet. A fighter.

Only instead of being a white dot in the distance, this one was a mass of gray ripping through the sky no more than five hundred feet above the ground. And its trajectory was taking it lower, not higher.

Wes’s first thought was that it was going to crash. His second was, It’s going to crash into us.

“What?” Danny said, alarmed.

Wes hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud.

“Up the slope. Behind the rock,” he yelled.

Not having to be told twice, Danny took off running for the questionable safety of the pinnacle.

Wes scrambled to follow, but slipped on the loose dirt and fell to his knees. The ground began to shake as the roar of the aircraft intensified. He looked back quickly and saw there was no way he was going to make it to shelter in time.

He was going to die.

He started to turn away, but a flash of light from the back of the jet stopped him. For half a second it seemed as if nothing had changed, then the nose of the aircraft inched upward a few feet, and the jet veered to the left, away from the pinnacle.

He saw me, Wes thought. He saw me and did something to miss me.

But whatever the pilot had done was only enough to change his path, not his fate. Wes watched as the plane began dropping lower and lower—­its new target the emptiness south of the crew’s position.

Wes pushed himself up and began sprinting toward the crew’s vehicles. He’d only made it a dozen feet when—­

Whomp.

He skidded to a stop, mesmerized as the plane plowed into the desert floor.

He had expected the jet to flip and roll, breaking into a million pieces seconds after it smashed into the ground. Instead, the multimillion-­dollar aircraft barreled through the earth, throwing up dirt and plants and rocks, but remaining intact. Then, just before it stopped, it twisted sideways, enveloping itself in a cloud of dust.

Wes jerked out of his trance and raced the rest of the way to the green Ford Escape he’d been in charge of driving out to the location that morning.

As he started to drive off, he glanced back and saw some of the shoot crew running toward the other vehicle, a Toyota Highlander. Dione was in the lead and waving frantically for Wes to stop.

But stopping wasn’t an option. He jammed the accelerator to the floor and sped into the open desert.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2013

    Brett Battles Rules!

    Brett Battles Rules!

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  • Posted July 18, 2012

    You need to read this book, but you better set aside a chunk of

    You need to read this book, but you better set aside a chunk of time, because you won't be able to put it down. The end of every chapter leaves wondering what's happening next.

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  • Posted April 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Great Debut Novel

    While an L.A. film crew was busy putting in a day’s work for the Close to Home travel series, they witness the horrible crash of an F-18 Navy fighter plane. Wes Stewart, the crew’s cameraman, rushes to the scene of the crash to help extricate the pilot. Unable to free the pilot because of a jammed restraint, Wes runs to get a knife to cut the harness, but when he turns to head back the plane bursts into flames and the pilot is killed.

    The morning after the crash Wes wakes up in his hotel that happens to be in the city of Ridgecrest, his childhood home. It has been seventeen years since he left. He would not have been back if the episode weren’t being shot at this location. Waiting to meet an old high-school friend Lieutenant Commander Lars Anderson at an old haunt, Wes picks up the day’s paper and reads the article on the crash. Immediately he is thrown for a loop when what he reads is not what happened. The photo of the pilot was not the guy he saw in the plane and the article said the pilot was dead on impact. What was going on, why was the Navy misleading the public?

    Wes, along with his girlfriend Anna, start digging into the crash and find evidence of a cover-up that involves Commanding officers and a covert operation testing a weapons system called SCORCH. Wes and Anna begin finding their rooms ransacked, footage of the crash and computers stolen and they are being followed whenever they leave the hotel. When members of the film crew go missing and Lars gets thrown into military prison, the situation becomes a fight for their lives as well as justice for the downed pilot.

    Brett Battles writes a fast-paced story that takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride through the Sierra desert and leaves them gasping for breath trying to keep up with his brilliant cast of characters. Battles has a getting-to-the-point style of writing that I found engaging. This was the first of his books I have read and it most certainly won’t be the last.

    Reviewed for Suspense Magazine

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  • Posted February 21, 2012

    A thriller with a mystery ...

    In between writing shorts stories & the next book in his Quinn series, Brett Battles has found time to write, yet, another standalone novel, NO RETURN. NO RETURN is a thriller with a mystery wrapped up in it. As a prodigious fan of Brett’s, I always look forward to his books & what new stories he has to offer. This story takes place in Brett’s hometown of Ridgecrest, CA. Our main character, Wes Stewart, who also happens to be from Ridgecrest, returns after 15+ years while part of a filming crew who is shooting an episode for a TV series. While filming a segment near China Lake, they are witness to a Navy F-18 plane crash, which they are also able to catch on film. Wes races to the scene of the crash hoping to render help. He finds the pilot unconscious but alive. Wes successfully revives the pilot but finds that the pilot’s harness is stuck. Wes runs back to his vehicle to get a knife & returns to the cockpit. But not before there is an explosion engulfing both pilot & cockpit. The Navy soon arrives to investigate & asks them for the film so they can review the footage of the crash. The next day, the local paper recognizes Wes as a hero, though he does not feel that he is. Wes discovers the photo of the deceased pilot in the newspaper’s article is not the man he attempted to save. A mystery Wes can’t let go. The events that unfold after that fateful day entwine Wes & his crew in a mystery involving the Navy, a possible cover up, and a reunion with an old friend, Lars, who now works for the Navy. And finally, a secret that Wes had thought he had left buried behind many years ago resurfaces. Why is the Navy trying so hard to convince Wes that he is confused about the pilot’s photograph? Is Lars a part of this cover up? Can Wes uncover the truth about the true identity of the pilot? Brett has managed to create a tale of suspense and mystery with his usual flair for excitement. The characters are interesting & likeable, the situation plausible, and the suspense builds to a crescendo to an ending that surprised me. Even though the story starts out with a bang (the plane crash) its pace is slightly relaxed for the first couple chapters until Wes starts uncovering facts that just don’t make sense. I appreciated Brett taking a journey back home and sharing his memories, although altered for the story, with me, the reader. Once again, I finished this book in two sittings (I would have finished in a day if I’d had the time) and enjoyed every minute of it!! I absolutely LOVE Brett’s Quinn series (can’t wait for #5 to come out in a couple of months!!!!) but I also really enjoy reading something that involves a different story line & characters I haven’t met before. I can always depend on Brett to give me a page turner that will keep me up all night!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Highly recommended

    If you like Brett Battles you will like this book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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