Sadly lacking in tension and credibility, Wills's debut technothriller is set in the contemporary U.S., where disasters and near-misses plague the history of a new plane. Are the problems due to pilot error, material flaws--or something more sinister? Alan Wilcox, a crack investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, suspects sabotage. He uncovers two possible suspects: the vice-president of an aircraft manufacturer on the brink of bankruptcy, and a psychotic computer genius. Working madly to identify the saboteur, Wilcox must also deal with skeptical superiors, a son involved with drugs and a wife resentful of his devotion to his career. Wills's descriptions of crash-investigation procedures are informative. But the characters are two-dimensional, the corporate and bureaucratic backgrounds vital to the story are neither clear nor convincing, and the plot never rises above the level of melodrama informed by pop-psychology. The novel's domestic scenes are more compelling than Wilcox's search for the villain--a fatal flaw in a book that purports to be an adventure. ( May )
The title of this taut tale of post-crash investigations refers to an airplane wreckage site. When the National Transportation Safety Board's Alan Wilcox becomes suspicious of unlikely coincidences in several air accidents and near-disasters, he follows clues that provide intriguing behind-the-scenes details about the aviation industry. Deftly probing the economic, political, and technical realities of airplane manufacturing and operation, he races against time to determine whether material defects, assembly shortcuts, or criminal sabotage are to blame. Several fascinating subplots intertwine with Wilcox's mission before converging in a breathtaking denouement. This winner is all the more spellbinding because it's so believable. Highly recommended for public libraries.-- Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.