Jerry's Reviews > Open Skies

Open Skies by Thomas Block
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Jul 06, 10

Read in June, 2004

Ex-pilot solves airline murder in light but flawed mystery...

Like author Block in real life, "Skies" leading man and ex-pilot Jack Sawyer has hung up his wings; and now runs a private-eye firm he inherited from a friend. That he has little skills to do so is revealed by the rag-tag band of helpers on this case: his tennis partner Max, his soon-to-be-ex-wife Susan, and Tracy, the secretary of the guy who hired him. The issue at hand involves the death of a Trans-Continental Airlines co-pilot who is crushed to death in the scissors-lift of an airlines service truck (ouch!). Though ruled an accident by the authorities, the company suspects foul play, and through a contact with Susan, hires Sawyer to investigate. Soon Jack's sleuthing brings bullets whizzing by him and Max, turning the matter more serious in a hurry. Pursuing thin clues at the airline, Jack stumbles on to what looks like a drug-smuggling run gone bad, as some strange flights by one of the firm's 737s don't seem to make sense. By story end, a thrilling in-flight fight yields a big win for Jack over the bad guys.
Thomas Block hit it big with the best-seller "Mayday" he co-authored with his more famous friend Nelson DeMille. Since then, his solo efforts have been mainly pleasant but not particularly thrilling titles involving aviation technology and related mysteries. To us, this 200-page book fails to deliver enough plot complexity, enough intrigue, enough relationship between characters (what romance there is, is pretty silly), or just enough solid detective work to move readers from indifferent to excited.

That "Skies" was so difficult to find speaks to a very limited production run; and the 1990 publication date, with no books in the bibliography since, suggest this might well be Block's swan song. While we don't consider this or his other efforts bad per se, the author just doesn't seem to generate enough heat or enthusiasm in the reader to justify the light entertainment versus the dollars spent to unearth this item in hardback. Successful airline thrillers form a pretty small genre, despite six attempts from Block. We might not be able to do better, but rate this novel as little more than a curiosity item.

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