Passenger 19, by Ward Larsen. Oceanview Publishing. 336 pages. Hardcover $26.95.
Mr. Larsen’s latest is now labeled as “A Jammer Davis Thriller,” linking it with two of the author’s previous novels. I, for one, am happy to approve the plan. I’m just thrilled to imagine more such techno-thrillers. In this one, not only is Jammer assigned to investigate a plane crash, he is also out to save his daughter Jen. She was on that flight but not accounted for after the crash, nor is another college girl, Kristin Stewart, with whom she had boarded the plane.
The investigation, performed officially by Colombian authorities with Jammer constantly overstepping his role in the matter, reveals that the crash was not survivable. It also reveals that the pilot and co-pilot were shot before the crash, along with one other person who turns out to be a Secret Service agent.
Figuring out the who, the how, and the why of this off-the-charts event takes Jammer and others on a dangerous journey. The examination of physical evidence and the exploration of countless “what ifs” leads to an unusual theory: the plane must have landed and taken off again – and not because of an emergency, but rather according to plan.
“Passenger 19” is not only a study in detection, it’s also a study in Colombia, its capital Bogotá, and the dense rain forests. In a country in which mob crime is among the largest businesses, those who wear official uniforms and hold government positions may or may not be trustworthy. Those who wear the uniforms or emblems of various paramilitary forces are likely to be private entrepreneurs who can be trusted to run illegal enterprises. The biggest, of course, are the drug cartels. Gaining ground are those in the kidnap-for-ransom business.
When it’s discovered that one of the dead men in a pilot’s uniform is not the pilot who had handled the original take-off (the uniform is too big), Jammer concludes that the first set-down of the plane was part of a hijacking. The later wreck would have been designed to get rid of witnesses.
Eventually, Jammer’s grudging Colombian counterpart, a military officer who oversees air transportation issues, is found murdered. Looks like he was getting too close to something.
The plot – with all of its carefully managed twists and turns of information, deduction, and action – keeps the pages flying. Even more impressive is Mr. Larsen’s handling of the technical material: the intricacies of aircraft design, handling characteristics, and controls. As Jammer and others discuss these matters, examine the tortured parts of the downed plane, and explore the crash landing’s impact on the terrain, readers are brought close to the analytical, scientific mind making its way through a myriad of facts to reach conclusions and determine actions. . . .
To read the full review, as published in the January 6, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 7 Naples and Bonita Springs editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Passenger 19