Death of an Airman is one of the resurrected British Crime Classics brought to us by Poisoned Pen Press. I got my hand on a whole bunch of these recently, and I couldn’t be happier. Although they are written in the golden age of crime fiction, the 1930-1940s, they are nothing like the Agatha Christie books I am enamored of.
I reviewed the Sussex Downs Murder here earlier and gave it good points. Death of an Airman started out very well. There is a flying school or aerodrome with a cast of characters. A Bishop from somewhere in Australia signs up to learn flying. Tommy Vane is a new student who is very scared of flying. Sally is the manager. Lady Laura is a benefactress and an excellent pilot. There are a few other instructors and employees.
One of the instructors crashes in his plane while supposedly doing a flying maneuver for fun. He never comes out of his spin. The death is termed as suicide. But a small point of rigor comes up and some doubt is inserted in the minds of the inspector. The mystery becomes deeper and a whole mare’s nest is uncovered.
I liked the style of writing here, and I was also surprised to read what was possible even with primitive flying club planes. Makes you wonder about all those flight mishaps we read about. The author goes into many technical aspects of flying a plane, conducting some flying tricks, landings etc. The nasty business that is at the heart of the story was unexpected. I wouldn’t have thought of it considering the timeline of the story.
At times, the Bishop himself seems like the villain. There are many strong women characters portrayed. The two lady pilots are highly skilled, perhaps more than all the men put together. Another overbearing woman is introduced as the head of a local charity. Will the perp also be a woman? The Inspector seems to think so!
Death of an Airman is a nice change from the usual ‘cozy’ mysteries with quirky characters that are becoming the norm these days. Mystery lovers will certainly find a good read in this book.