cover image Blackout


John J. Nance. Putnam, $23.95 (435pp) ISBN 978-0-399-14594-0

Arguably the king of the modern-day aviation thriller, Nance is in top form in this white-knuckle adventure about terrorism and heroism in the air and on land. From the jungles of Vietnam to the forests around Seattle and on several harrowing plane trips in between, FBI Agent Kat Bronsky and Washington Post reporter Robert MacCabe investigate why American jumbo jets are falling out of the sky. All the crashes have striking similarities: pilots were either killed or left blind by bright flashes that exploded just in front of the cockpit while the planes were in midair. Equally confusing is the appearance, then disappearance, of a corporate jet in the vicinity of all the crashes. And whoever is orchestrating the fatal air campaign has neither taken credit nor made any demands. After weathering many attempts on their lives by a shadowy terrorist group, Bronsky and MacCabe finally figure out what's happening: the terrorists are using a special ray gun stolen from the government to disable airplanes in flight. Their intent is to cause so much panic in the travel industry that it will disable the U.S. airline fleet. But why? The author's seventh aviation thriller (Pandora's Clock; The Lost Hostage) features, as usual, a completely new cast of characters who mix like old friends and enemies amid the non-stop action, never-say-die theatrics and stealth conspiracies. While the silly romance between MacCabe and Bronsky should have been jettisoned on takeoff, Nance continues to craft brilliantly hair-raising in-flight emergency scenes and brings this turbulent ride to a rousing, well-developed finale that comes together smoothly on final approach. Author tour. (Feb.)