Ward Larsen

Fly By Wire

"...there are few real jaw-dropping moments. "


A brand new C-500 aeroplane plummets from 6 miles up and crashes into central France killing both pilots. The C-500 was equipped with new "fly-by-wire" technology and was supposed to be the future of air freighters. There are over a hundred C-500's in use around the world, which means that the authorities have to discover why this one has crashed, and fast.

French officials take over this investigation and they want the best team possible - so the call goes out for Frank "Jammer" Davis. Davis is a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and is now part of the National Transportation Safety Board's "go team." With a reputation for getting things done regardless of the opposition, Jammer begins to dig.

As Davis is just beginning his investigation, the crash moves off the front pages as oil refineries across the globe are targeted by suicide bombers. The knock-on effect of this plunges stock markets and governments into disarray. Davis keeps relentlessly working away at his own investigation, but soon uncovers a connection between the plane crash and the terrorist attacks. This is a conspiracy of unthinkable consequences which Davis may not be able to prevent.

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Larsen introduces a new twist to the whole detective novel genre here, simply by bringing us to an area of investigation which we all know about. I, for one, have never heard of a novel where the hero or main character is an air crash investigator for the NTSB, which sounds far more glamourous than a DS in Solihull or even a Captain in LA. Davis is your stereotypical blunt object investigator who rides rough-shod all over the investigation's principal, one Thierry Bastien. Yet Davis does not really want the job; he would rather be at home arguing with his daughter, Jen, over her Prom date. "Jammer" Davis is joined on the multinational investigation team by Anna Sorenson and Ibrahim Jaber. Jaber was one of the code writers for the "fly-by-wire" software. Each plays a vital part in the search for why the plane crashed but neither is what they seem. On the other side of the coin are the mysterious Caliph and his assistant, come go-between, Fatima, who is a marvellous creation and is the subject of the funniest line in the book. Do not be fooled though, this is a Jammer Davis book and he railroads his way past, through or over anyone who does not follow his way of thinking. His logical processes are a joy to discover as he explains things as adeptly as Lee Child does with Reacher. Yet he is not the usual hard-drinking bitter cliché he could so easily have been. He is a family man at heart and while he still mourns his wife, he loves his daughter and desperately wants to get back home to her. The pace of the novel is neither sedate nor overly frantic. It merely gathers you up and carries you to the safety of the last page. The language used to describe intricate systems is never over technical and is easily followed. The whole writing style of the book is first class and often eloquent. The plot is very cleverly worked out and has enough twists and turns to keep us all guessing although there are few real jaw-dropping moments. Having inside knowledge from his background as a pilot and aircraft investigator has given Ward Larsen an authenticity that many other authors would have struggled to achieve or take months to research properly. I sincerely hope that we see another book about Frank "Jammer" Davis soon as Fly By Wire is a terrific thriller.

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