Review: Drone by M.L. Buchman

Review: Drone by M.L. BuchmanDrone Format: ebook
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #1
Pages: 422
Published by Buchman Bookworks on November 19, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository
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China’s newest stealth J-31 jet fighter goes missing. A C-130 Hercules transport plane lies shattered in the heart of America’s Top Secret military airbase — Groom Lake in the Nevada Test and Training Range.

A supersonic drone flies Black Ops missions from the most secure hangar in the nation.

The CIA, the military, and the National Reconnaissance Office are all locked in a power struggle.
One woman is trapped in the middle. Miranda Chase, lead crash investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, becomes a pawn in a very dangerous game. Burdened with a new team, she must connect the pieces to stay alive. And she must do it before the wreckage of her past crashes down upon her.

My Review:

Drone was nothing like I expected – and that turned out to be an excellent thing. (I’m also thinking that there’s a pun in here somewhere, as a drone was nothing that anyone in the story expected – excellent or otherwise.)

Instead of the military romance or romantic suspense that this author is well-known for – and deservedly so – Drone is much more like a spy thriller. And it feels a whole lot closer to Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games than M.L. Buchman’s The Night is Mine. Or it would if Jack Ryan were more than a bit like Temperance Brennan in Bones.

I’m not mixing metaphors, I promise. And I’ll explain in a bit.

The main story in Drone, the part that leads to the spy thriller aspects, mixes the seemingly mundane with the possibly outre – as exemplified by the location, Groom Lake Nevada, otherwise known as Area 51 – at least in part.

There’s been a plane crash. When there’s a civilian plane crash, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) is called in to determine the reason for the crash. While there the potential element of searching for who to blame, the true purpose is to discover if the crash was preventable and make necessary changes so that it doesn’t happen again – at least not in the same way. But this isn’t a civilian crash.

This particular crash is just weird, as it seems like this military helicopter has crashed in the midst of a secure installation it had no business being in. Jurisdiction has the potential to get very confused – and it does. Along with the usual fighting over turf.

NTSB agent Miranda Chase finds herself diverted from her trip home in order to take charge of the investigation, along with a new team of agents that she has never even met before. Only to find herself facing the business end of a military revolver as the commander of the base does not want her, the NTSB, or anyone else poking around his base.

He has good reason. Figuring out just what that reason is becomes the heart of this book. And it nearly rips out the heart of the investigator, as well as the brains of more than a few pilots along the way.

And it’s the start of what looks to be a fascinating series.

Escape Rating A-: I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t too sure what direction this story was going to take. I mean that in the sense that all of the previous books by this author that I have read (and there have been LOTS) all have a romantic element. So I was expecting that and when it didn’t manifest I wondered whether I was in the right place – so to speak. Once I realized that this was all suspense and no romance, it flew me away at supersonic speeds.

The story rests on the character of Miranda Chase, and she’s certainly an interesting choice for point of view. At the top, I likened Chase to Temperance Brennan (as portrayed in the TV series Bones and not the Kathy Reichs’ books) Like Brennan, Miranda Chase is extremely intelligent, laser-focused, detail-oriented and generally not cognizant of human dynamics in any way. To the point where both women seem to be neuro-atypical, although in what way is never defined. But it makes Miranda an unconventional heroine – and I liked her a lot.

As the first book in the series, Drone also has a strong element of putting the team together. Miranda can’t do it alone – and even if she could, she shouldn’t. At the same time, she has a difficult time bonding with people – or even figuring out why people would want to bond. So the team that coalesces around her, who begin as strangers to her and to each other, need time to gel and find their places. That’s a process that has definitely begun by the end of Drone but still has a long way to go and should provide interesting viewpoints as the series progresses.

But the case that Miranda and her team find themselves in the middle of felt to me as if it came straight out of some of Tom Clancy’s less convoluted – and less long-winded – Jack Ryan stories.

When Miranda and her team arrive at Groom Lake, it’s already clear that something isn’t quite kosher about the crash. Not because it doesn’t look right – although that’s certainly true – but because the base commander is behaving strangely and the military version of NTSB is not investigating the crash site. It’s obvious that there’s a whole lot being hidden, but Miranda only sees the anomalies in the crash itself – which are plenty anomalous. Along with the fact that neither she nor her team have any idea who got them called into investigating this mess – or why.

Even when she figures out how the plane crashed – she still doesn‘t know what made the plane crash. Then she goes to DC to consult with a friend and mentor. And discovers that whatever physically made the plane crash it looks a whole lot like politics was the real cause.

That and the CIA left hand making sure that the Joint Chiefs of Staff right hand did not know what the CIA was doing with military assets and military personnel. This isn’t just a turf war – it’s a turf war with a coverup on top. A coverup that the CIA wants to bury Miranda Chase under – literally if necessary.

That the wheels within wheels turn out to include some truly epic spy games is just icing on a very tasty cake. And does a fantastic job of whetting the reader’s appetite for more books in this series.

I’m very glad that the second book of Miranda Chase’s adventures, Thunderbolt, is coming next month!

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