Flash back to a grisly double-homicide—father and daughter slain aboard a yacht in California. Freeze the image of the teenage son who survived, only to be murdered in his hospital bed. Fast-forward ten years to detective Frank Harriman as he faces the awful possibility that the case might have wrongly vilified a hero-cop and left a monster free. That’s the intriguing setup in Flight: A Novel of Suspense, by Houston native Jan Burke. In this follow-up to her seventh Irene Kelly mystery Bones, Burke relegates Kelly to second-banana status and awards the lead to hard-nosed hubby Harriman. The cozy couple’s Nick and Nora Charles routine provides some relief to a police procedural whose meticulous plotting leaves little room for serendipity. Burke’s penchant for detail and back story makes for a rich canvas, but sometimes she obsesses when she should just get on with the business at hand. Still, Flight is a note-perfect lesson in building a suspense novel, 2001 edition. It might lack freewheeling charm, but it’s tough and honest—and that’s saying something these days.
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