Flat SpinAuthor: David Freed
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Flat Spin is an engaging mystery with an equally engaging lead.
Cordell Logan left behind the shadowy world of black ops for a more sedate life as a flight instructor in California. When his ex-wife comes to ask him to look into her husband's mysterious murder, Logan is a bit conflicted. The murdered man is both an ex-compatriot from Logan's black ops days and the man responsible for Logan's wife becoming his ex-wife.
Good prose, it is often said, is invisible. For all the careful consideration of word choice and sentence structure that a writer puts into a novel, if his or her labor is obvious, it's a jarring experience that interferes with the reader's ability to fully immerse themselves into the story.
My immersion into the mystery-thriller Flat Spin was facilitated by that sort of skillful yet invisible writing. The story is related to the reader by Cordell Logan, a down-on-his-luck flight instructor who used to work as a black ops operative. The author brings Logan to life with a distinct witty (and more than a little sarcastic) voice. A large portion of the fun of this book comes from his observations on existence and the murder case, as filtered through both his own background and his somewhat tortured (though often amusing) attempts to apply Buddhist philosophies to his life. He's a likable and competent fellow yet also has a vulnerable emotional inner life that is interesting without undermining him as a plausible lead in a story filled with danger.
Mostly though, he's well-actualized. The voice and the character development allow the novel to really read as if this unusually interesting fellow is just casually relating to you a story about how his ex-wife got him mixed up in a complicated murder case. When I started the book, I was a bit concerned that the black ops background was inserted so the book could head off into a more over-the-top action thriller direction. Although Logan is certainly competent when it comes to the fine art of inflicting harm, the action in the book is restrained. Sometimes less is more.
There's a relatively large cast of characters, many of which you'd expect in this sort of book: police officers, shady organized crime types, a beautiful woman in need of help,et cetera. Given the POV, none really receive the development the lead does, but they all come off as realistic, including the lead's cat.
Indeed, as far as realism, many aspects of the book are marked by great authenticity, in particular the flight sequences (the author is, among other things, a pilot). Some of the interactions with the police made me arch a brow or two, but I was enjoying everything else so much I didn't care.
Though the central mystery itself isn't necessarily labyrinthine in its complexity, it is skillfully executed with a nice balance between revelation and additional questions as Logan swims through the clues. There are also enough nasty sorts lurking around the plot that a palpable sense of legitimate danger follows Logan throughout the book.