August 20, 2008 > Bird Watcher
By Robert A. Garfinkle
Bird Watcher, by Marjorie Bicknell Johnson, (Infinity Publishing.Com) 2007. Pp. 370. Price $18.95 (trade paperback; ISBN 0-7414-4205-1).
A funny thing happened at the Palo Alto airport one day; somebody stole a Cessna 172, and set in motion a twisting adventure by the plane's two owners as they tried to capture the thief. San Francisco Bay Area author Marjorie Bicknell Johnson has crafted an interesting book of intrigue as her heroes, Jerry and Frank, fly rented planes from Palo Alto to Los Banos, Auburn, Las Vegas, Rapid City, South Dakota, and other places in between in their search for the guy who stole their Cessna 172 (and several other Cessna 172s).
The thief, a Native American (Sioux) leader of a reservation in South Dakota, steals the planes to use in suicide missions, but is unable to make his plans work. He hires and trains four Muslim teens how to fly in order to carry out his plans of revenge for all the troubles the white man has caused his people. The thief also plots to destroy Jerry and Frank after he learns that they are on to him and could spoil his plans. Jerry and Frank also have to deal with FBI agents who dismiss the situation as a joke.
The pilots finally get help from an Air Force officer who is investigating a stolen Cessna that entered restricted air space in Nevada and was shot down. For a while you are led to believe that the downed Cessna is on another suicide mission. The book is full of plot twists and subplots. Readers are pulled into the story and securely held until the last word of the novel.
The author has firsthand knowledge of flying Cessna 172s; she owns one and has flown into each airport in the novel. The rich detail gives readers a sense of reality. I highly recommend this debut novel.