Ward Larsen’s techno-thriller flies high

“Fly by Wire,” by Ward Larsen. Oceanview Publishing. 312 pages. $25.95.

Sarasota author Ward Larsen’s Frank “Jammer” Davis is a no-nonsense kind of guy. Like his creator a retired U.S. Air Force fighter pilot, Davis is impatient with the bureaucratic molasses that often clogs urgent work. Now employed by the National Transportation Safety Board, Davis is called to an emergency meeting of aviation and security experts to find out why a new C-500 cargo aircraft has plummeted straight down and crashed in Central France, its systems seemingly compromised with no apparent cause. He immediately distrusts the inexperienced French academic who has been chosen to lead the team, especially as the Frenchman pushes too quickly to steer the investigation toward pilot error. Davis pushes for more facts, more action, and less protocol. 

Before long, Davis finds himself partnering with an intelligent and attractive CIA agent, Anna Sorensen, who is having trouble maintaining her cover as a Honeywell Avionics employee. At first distrustful and competitive, both sense that a romance might be building. Davis, a true professional and a two-year widower raising a teenage daughter, has to feel his way into this relationship. A self-confessed “visual guy,” he respects Sorensen’s skills and savvy while becoming more and more attracted to what meets the eye. They gain each other’s trust and make important discoveries, investigatory and otherwise, independently and together.

The initial emergency becomes overshadowed by another one, at first thought to be unrelated. Almost at the same instant, mid-sized oil refiners have been bombed across the world, creating economic upheaval and worldwide panic.    

Mr. Larsen plots his novel along several tracks, one of which brings us into the world of the Islamic terrorists who are involved in the initial suicide bombings, a charismatic leader called Caliph, a furtive and thoroughly unattractive Arab woman who seems to be an important messenger, and a cancer-ridden software genius who engineered CargoAir’s C-500 onboard systems. 

As the pace of the novel accelerates, Davis helps make the connection between the plane crash and the refinery bombings, uncovering a surprising and monumental conspiracy. When higher-ups cannot seem to move on the crisis, Davis bullies them into action, even chewing out the President of the United States along the way. 

The unraveling of the airplane calamity and the refinery conspiracy involves a lot of techno-talk. While one might think this element would slow things down, it doesn’t. Ward Larsen takes readers into the world of technology with clarity, economy, and sure-handedness. He makes it fun to witness Davis putting the pieces together.  Throughout, the author reveals information at just the right pace to keep the suspense building without giving anything away prematurely.

To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the September 15-21, 2010 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the September 16-22 Naples Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Ward Larsen pdf

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