Erin, recently diagnosed with incurable cancer, is en route across the country when her plane comes apart midair. Incredibly, she survives the fall, landing still strapped in her plane seat, the fall broken by tree branches, a rotting barn roof, hay bales and soft mud. She is taken disoriented to the hospital as a Jane Doe, but her injuries are minor. The NTSB investigators arrive at the debris field, but by the time they get to check out the stories of a survivor, she has disappeared. This is a great premise for a mystery. Where did she go? And why? Who was she?
Unfortunately, the author drops the ball well short of the goal line. He writes well enough for a thriller of this type. The problem is with plausibility, and I don’t mean the idea of a survivor. The book cites several real life cases of airplane fall survivors. The greatest implausibility is the notion that she could disappear and not be identified. She may have been a Jane Doe missing her clothing and too stunned to give her name, but she was ambulatory and communicative. There would have been X-rays and blood tests that would provide DNA and reveal both the cancer and chemo thus pinning down who she could be. Security cameras abound in Wichita’s major hospitals, I’m sure. She was so unique not only because she was a passenger from the exploded airplane having fallen though the barn roof, but she was a very good-looking woman (her lover was described as “Hollywood handsome” and in her thrall, so she had to be a stunner) and dying of cancer. Everyone at the hospital would have remembered her, yet only a day later they could give only a vague description and couldn’t pick her out from a lineup of photos of only a handful of women yet to be identified. This is preposterous. Her photos would have been plastered all over the Internet and TV news. Her family and friends would have identified her immediately. Despite having no clothes or identification she “settles up” at a bar. With what? She still had a credit card? Someone gave her cash? I could go on, but you get the point.
Even more incredible were the actions of the lead investigator, Charlie Radford. I won’t bother with all the details because they’re spoilers and it doesn’t matter all that much. Despite the silliness and mandatory eye-rolling, the book was still a fun read. The plot premise was just compelling enough that I was forced to keep reading to see whether, when, and how she would be identified. There were other families, those whose loved one’s remains had not been found or positively identified, who held out hopes from the rumor of a surviving woman that she might be their relative. Would they finally be spared the agony of not knowing and be allowed closure? It’s a quick easy read with a killer premise and that’s enough for some good hours of entertainment for me, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable recommending it.