Fans of the classic detective format will find this series starter a detective romp in the classic hard-boiled mode, as grizzled, grumbling, whisky-drinking Frank is approached at his office by Helen, a woman with “the aroma of old money in her understated elegance.” Setting Frank and the story apart, however, is his past with the NTSB and his knowledge of avionics, something Meier details with persuasive precision in the book’s most compelling scenes, as Frank investigates the crash site and examines the plane’s remains. Meier blends that lived-in realism with more traditional genre elements, with Frank quipping in the face of torture, or women saying things to him like “All the best men are either disgustingly faithful or critically wounded”—a line worthy of the vintage thrillers that inspire Meier.
Still, the plot lacks urgency until Frank’s in danger, and that old-school pulp-mystery spirit extends to some reductive characterizations, such as the helpful cab driver, Pedro Gonzalez, who manages to call Frank “senor” five times in half a page. The action is crisp and convincing, and the frozen setting shines as a hostile, miserable place, captured with the touch of hard-edge poetry—like bursts of rain that hit “the windshield and froze there in hard, flat teardrops”—of Meier at his best.
Takeaway: Hard-boiled D.C. mystery pitting an accident consultant against a deadly conspiracy.
Comparable Titles: John J. Nance, John Copenhaver’s The Savage Kind.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A