When young Sharon Lacey travels from Canada to England in the spring of 1940 in search of the father she never knew, she finds herself called upon to participate in a much larger and more dangerous mission. For at eighteen, she is a gifted flier in an England desperate for pilots to fend off the impending attack from Hitler’s Luftwaffe. In the months that follow, Sharon will be tested in ways that will affect the rest of her life—should she survive.
With Blackbirds, award-winning mystery novelist Garry Ryan turns his hand towards historical fiction, vividly evoking the fear and uncertainty of wartime England, as well as the spirit of camaraderie and adventure shared by the men—and women—who stepped forward to defend it.
About the Author
In 2004, Garry Ryan published his first Detective Lane novel, Queen’s Park. The second, The Lucky Elephant Restaurant, won a 2007 Lambda Literary Award. He has since published eight more titles in the series. In 2009, Ryan was awarded Calgary’s Freedom of Expression Award. He currently lives in Calgary.
Read an Excerpt
“You think they’re the boys from Dunkirk?” Sharon put her hands between the rock and a backside that was complaining about the rough edges of several stones.
“Their kit looks new,” Linda said. “Their boots are new. Supposedly, they left the beaches with little more than the clothes on their backs. It’s being called a victory. Our army plucked off the beach and saved from certain defeat by the Nazis. By the looks on their faces, they don’t feel like victors.” Linda looked over her shoulder. The fog was sifting away from the grass of the airfield. She could make out a low, red building with white window frames. “It’s lifting.” She carefully tapped the hot end of her cigarette against a stone, touched it with her fingertips, and put the remainder in the pocket of her flight suit. “Come on. If we get through today, we’ll be off to White Waltham. It’s a little airfield next to London where the ATA is beginning its operations.”
“ATA? How come you British never speak English? It’s all ATA, RAF, BBF, WC,” Sharon said.
“Air Transport Auxiliary. We get to fly all the kites the big boys get to play with. The difference is, we’re not supposed to have Jerry shooting at us.”
I’ll never get used to this place, Sharon thought. Nobody speaks English. Jerry means German. RAF means Royal Air Force. Git means asshole. It’s like learning a new language.
An engine sputtered and caught.
Sharon swung around, using her arms to push herself away from the wall. She landed softly in the long grass. It swished against her flying boots as she walked. She looked down. The toes were already coated with dew. She zipped up her leather RAF Irvin sheepskin jacket as she walked against the wind. She watched the wings of a Tiger Moth shiver as its engine ticked over. The newly camouflaged green and grey biplane looked about as awkward on the ground as it did in the air. She turned to her friend. “Any news of Michael’s whereabouts?” Why are you so interested in her brother?
Linda shook her head as she zipped up her flight suit. “Not a word. My mother is beginning to fear he’s been captured by the Germans.”
Sharon nodded. We can’t speak about the other possibility. The possibility that he won’t be coming back.