First Class Killing
In Hard Landing and Tarmac Lynne Heitman revealed the fascinating, behind-the-scenes life of an airport. Her protagonist Alex Shanahan, like the author, was an airline operations manager. As she did her job (and solved a mystery or two) the reader got to learn intriguing and sometimes scary details about life in an airport. Alex returns in First Class Killing as a fledgling private investigator. Now she’s investigating the airline from the outside. That certainly makes her job more challenging, but conversely makes the book a little less interesting.
Alex gave up her corporate identity and now works for Harvey Baltimore. She convinces her new boss to take on OrangeAir as a client. Because of a threatened lawsuit, the airline is trying to get proof that some of its first class stewardesses are moonlighting as high-priced call girls. What Alex discovers is a highly organized prostitution ring run by the extremely tough and dangerous Angel.
Though I called this a mystery in the header for this review, it is truthfully more of a thriller then anything else. Alex knows who the bad guys are. What she doesn’t know, and has to figure out, is how to prove who they are. There is real suspense in her increasingly dangerous endeavors to get that proof. And though there are times she acts less wisely then she should, perhaps even foolishly, her behavior is believable. Alex is desperate to prove to herself and the people in her life that she’s made the right choice with this new venture and that she was right to give up her high-paying career for this much more tenuous one.
The tensions Alex feels both externally and internally are well-drawn and believable. Less believable is the villain of the piece. The characterization of Angel as antagonist is all over the place. She’s a cold as ice businesswoman, she’s an emotionally stunted, possibly abused person, she’s supposed to be frighteningly intelligent but doesn’t immediately see through Alex…the list goes on. And much of the confusion felt by the reader is because of the completely unnecessary and misleading prologue of the book. More then once I turned back to it to check if I’d missed something. The way it finally ties in is simply redundant.
For those of you who’ve enjoyed watching A&E’s reality series Airline there’s definitely something in this series for you. Though I missed the insider information about how the non-public parts of the airport worked, there’s still plenty here for the buffs. But be warned. The tone is not nearly as light-hearted as the reality series. Alex is a tough and flawed character who makes tough and what for many will be unpardonable choices. Though none of this was a detriment to my reading enjoyment, it did make for a gritty and occasionally grim reading experience. Whether the denouement is a triumph for Alex is questionable, but I do hope to see her again.