Thursday, June 21, 2012

David Freed Takes On A Flat Spin

A flat spin is a worst case scenario for any pilot. The odds of recovery are slim and the plane falls, spinning, with its nose above the relative horizon. Depending on the plane, you are going down.

One might say Arlo Echevarria entered flat spin when he opened the door for a Domino's guy despite having never ordered a pizza. Any of the three slugs could have been potentially fatal wounds. Together, there wasn't anything left for Echevarria to do except drop like 164 pounds of wet laundry.

The murder was an especially sour problem for Cordell Logan, not that he didn't have enough problems already. His credit with Larry Kropf, who rented him hangar space, was running on empty. His plane, the Ruptured Duck, was in need of repairs. His conscience was still too intact to freeload on his landlady, Ms. Schmulowitz. And on any given day, his success at being Buddhist worked as well as feeding his lazy, overweight, and largely apathetic cat.

Flat Spin is also the condition of Cordell Logan's entire life.

Somehow Logan manages to take most of it in stride with a reckless calm, rippled only by his sarcastic pedestrian humor that was frequently wasted on nearly everyone he met. But Echevarria's death was different. Logan used to work under him. And Echevarria's beautiful wife Savannah Carlisle used to be his wife until his boss moved in for the steal while sending Logan on out-of-town assignments.

She is the one who tells Logan about the murder, waiting for him in his hangar after he and his student barely managed to bring the aging Cessna down on the tarmac. He hasn't seen her in six years.

Her request, however, isn't an easy one. What she wants the man who still pines away for her to do is tell the police that her suspicions are right. She believes her murdered husband worked for the government. But that doesn't make it easy for Logan, who knows her husband did.

He did too. All those business trips that he took had very little to with sales and everything to do with his work as part of a top-secret military assassination team known as "Alpha." And giving up Echevarria's former covert operations means giving up his own, an action with consequences far worse than the dangers Logan would face hunting down the killer himself.

Cordell Logan doesn't fit the stereotype, but he is a fun curmudgeon. 

Sometimes it is difficult to reconcile that Logan is a former assassin, given his lighthearted quips and cliches about everything. His skill sets tend to bubble up from time to time with foreshadowed precision  not unlike the qualities exhibited by Robert Downey Jr. in the Sherlock Holmes franchise. Like Holmes, Logan either recalls specific instructions from his past or foreshadows before the fight.

This gives the book a much more action-adventure foundation than the reluctant detective story it is meant to be, which is fine. As a character, Cordell is fun in that he is unfazed by his former occupation but severely stunted by the split with his wife and frequently conflicted in everything he does.

At times the wit and whimsy feel like they are being spun by a former journalist or clever screenwriter as opposed to the man Cordell could be, but author David Freed more than makes up for the lowbrow comedic overdose in other areas. His own professional experiences do lend authenticity to the story more times than not.

David Freed is a Pulitzer Prize winner and small plane pilot. 

There is nowhere Freed makes Cordell more comfortable in his novel than when he is flying an airplane. There is no question that both men, the author and the character, are most at home in flight. The prose in those moments is among the best written, much like the banter between Cordell and Ms. Schmulowitz (and other characters) on the far sitcom end of the spectrum.

Freed has enjoyed a diverse career as an investigative reporter, embedded journalist, and with the U.S. intelligence community. According to Freed, all that mostly occurred because he didn't have a high enough grade point average to get into law school. What he does have is a vivid imagination and a character that despite the constant buzz of author injections is one worth following as Freed is already working on the next book.

Flat Spin by David Freed Soars To 5.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

What makes Flat Spin entertaining is the rare blend of action, adventure, mystery, and comedy while never staying in one genre too long. It's rarely forced and frequently pitch perfect as a punchy first person narrative cumulated from his years as a journalist. There is promise here as Logan matures.

You can find Flat Spin by David Freed at Barnes & Noble and Flat Spin (Cordell Logan Mystery) is available from Amazon. The novel has been produced as an audiobook, which can be downloaded from iTunes. The book is read by Ray Porter, who pushes the sardonic tenor in Logan's voice off the page and into life.
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