Book review: Flight Risk by Michael McGuire

Saturday, January 19, 2019 Permalink

I wasn’t sure about this book. I mentioned the fact on Instagram. Although I’m accustomed to reading about psychopaths and serial killers and the like there are certain things I don’t want floating around in my head. Like the possibility of a plane crash for example. Or being eaten by sharks.

After 9/11 and losing a couple of former work colleagues in plane crashes (when I worked for the Oz Government) I was one of those people who’d look around as I boarded a plane and wonder which one of us the TV movie would focus on… if the plane was to go down. You know… whose backstory would they share? (And I know I’m not alone in that weirdness by the way!)

I must admit there are (eventually) some scenes-I-won’t-forget-quickly, but thankfully Flight Risk doesn’t feed the paranoid tendencies too much.

Book review: Flight Risk by Michael McGuireFlight Risk
by Michael McGuire
Published by Allen & Unwin
on January 1st 2019
Source: Allen & Unwin
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 9781760632885
Pages: 304

Disgraced former pilot Ted Anderson works for a top-secret government organisation set up to investigate terror-related incidents. Sent to Jakarta to find out as much as he can about the pilot of a vanished Garuda flight, he discovers a flight simulator in the pilot's apartment.

When the investigation turns sour, Ted escapes to New York as further disaster strikes.

Another plane disappears from the sky. Then another. Three planes and hundreds of passengers and crew, vanished, without a trace. Panic is widespread and the world is teetering on the brink.

Still no one has come forward to claim responsibility.

At an eerily deserted JFK airport trying to get a flight back home, Ted witnesses a suspicious exchange between an airport cleaner and a nonchalant airline pilot. He follows the pilot to his destination: a Ukraine International Airlines flight, due to leave in an hour.

All his instincts tell Ted that this is the next plane to go down. But what on earth can he do? Take the flight and face almost certain death? Or fly back home and wait for the news headlines?

He does the unthinkable and gets on the plane.

Ted’s character is well-developed and McGuire does a good job with him. He’s likeable and (mostly) easy to identify with. In reality he’s the only person we get to know well and there’s a backstory there – his time in the military (PTSD), drinking during his time as a commercial pilot, his wife’s death, his estranged daughter… and though they’re touched on, they’re not explored in any detail here. I suspect it’s intended that this series will continue in some form… though we do learn how he came to work for ASIS (Australia’s CIA equivalent).

Although I enjoyed this book (it was a page-turner in many ways) the pacing or perhaps the plot itself is a bit uneven as the second half felt a bit rushed. Indeed, we were still in the thick of things when I realised there weren’t many pages to go…. so not a lot of scope for a complex plot to unfold once we neared the end.

And I think it was the latter half of the book that let it down a little for me. I enjoyed the first half… Ted’s trek to Indonesia, and it made complete sense to me that he’d investigate the pilot of the first plane to disappear (who lived in Jakarta). I didn’t get why his boss had a problem with it… though of course at that point they were still thinking it could be an accident. Things change once the second and third planes go missing and of course – we know from the blurb – Ted finds himself willingly jumping on board one he thinks will face a similar fate. (ie. This is no accident or coincidence.)

So, Ted’s boss’s decisions didn’t entirely make sense and once Ted’s on board the suspicious flight his actions really didn’t seem like those of a seasoned investigator / spy. In fact there was a sense of ineptitude about him (and I know his CIA counterpart treated him in that manner).

I liked that there was a bit of a twist on the whole ‘terror’ / religion motivation (though like to think it was / is more than just megalomania gone mad).  However the feasibility of the last half, and more specifically the last quarter was a bit of a disappointment. (I tried to imagine a large passenger plane looping around the skyline of New York and avoiding skyscrapers…)

Having said that, I liked McGuire’s writing and there’s a no-nonsense manner to his prose which matches the narrative and character/s well.

McGuire references terrorism and terror organisations in the book (obviously) and it’s a topic he seems familiar and comfortable with. There are a few lessons for humanity as well with the advent and progression of terror cells and manner of their growth. I was reminded of my time working in an organisation which investigated major crime and the big boss’s comments about the fact that sometimes we were better with the ‘devil we know’. We cut off the head of the dragon (drug lords, motorcycle gangs or whatevs) and the next generation or whoever comes next could be far worse.

So, while a little uneven for me, this is an interesting and – in some ways – thought-provoking read, and… perhaps the story of Ted doesn’t end here.

Flight Risk by Michael McGuire was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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