by Clive Cussler & Justin Scott
The recent success of the Wright Brothers has ignited a global fire of aviation ardor; mechanicians in Germany, France, Italy, England and the United States drop everything and focus on the fledgling world of airplane design and manufacture. Brave (and often foolish) airplane drivers (a newspaper publisher in this book specifically tells his reporters to use the word “driver” rather than “pilot”) take to the skies in anything with a power plant and wings, sometimes surviving to fly again.
Newspaper publisher Preston Whiteway is determined to profit from this frenzy, so he sponsors an air race from New York to San Francisco, offering the winner $50,000. Of course, this being 1910, that sum represents an almost unbelievable fortune, and racers from around the world come to compete for the prize, including a young aviatrix, Josephine Frost.
Mrs. Frost, however, has a bit of a dark past, which is uncovered layer by layer as the story progresses, specifically as Van Dorn Chief Investigator Isaac Bell does his best to protect her during the dash across the continent.
Cussler and Scott have done a tremendous job in capturing the emotions and realities of the early days of heavier-than-air flight. This was a time before the wide adoption and understanding of Bernoulli’s principle, and flying was just plain dangerous. But if one managed to acquire a machine that was more stable than not, the adrenaline reward was simply incomparable. All of these details are presented in a fashion that makes this work a real page-turner.
Rated: Moderate. The usual collection of mild to moderate vulgar terms, but none of the heavy hitters. Only a handful of instances of profaning Deity.