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Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Thriller
Flight #545 is a few hours from touchdown when the flight turns into a hellish nightmare. Something causes the giant plane to "porpoise" up and down, creating terrific G-forces and mass destruction to the interior of the plane. By the time the plane lands in LA, 56 are severely injured and 3 are dead.
Casey Singelton, Norton Aircraft's VP of Quality Assurance/Incident Review Team, is selected to investigate what happened to #545. With the sale of fifty N-22 planes to China on the line, her boss John Marder wants answers.
The foreign flight crew has already flown back to Hong Kong and the airline is somewhat uncooperative, making Casey's job tough. The pilot in charge of the flight has an impeccable reputation, so the odds of pilot error are remote. Initial reports look as if the slats accidentally deployed during flight. Norton thought it fixed that problem years ago, and even if the slats did deploy, they should not have caused havoc.
Casey suspects she is being set up for a fall when she finds her new assistant spying on her. The Union is convinced they are about to be sold up the river, so dangerous "accidents" start happening at the plant. The critical investigation time-table is moved up even more when "Newsline" producer Jennifer Malone decides to do an expos on Norton's "deadly" planes. Casey is boxed in on all sides and only the truth may rescue her, if she can discover it in time.
Leave it to powerhouse author Michael Crichton to tap into one of society's collective fears just in time for the holiday travel season. Crichton scores big yet again with this intense, chilling new thriller, which is also a stinging indictment of both the media and airline industries. (Dec., 351 pp., $26.00)
Reviewed By: Jill M. Smith
Published: February 1997