Review: Thunderbolt by M.L. Buchman

Review: Thunderbolt by M.L. BuchmanThunderbolt (Miranda Chase NTSB #2) Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #2
Pages: 440
Published by Buchman Bookworks on December 17, 2019
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The best ground-attack support fighter jets ever built—the A-10 Thunderbolt “Warthogs”—are falling out of the sky.

The Air Force brass repeatedly schemes to decommission this low-tech jet. They’ve been blocked by soldiers, pilots, and Congress…so far.

The “Hog” lies at the crux of a high-tech struggle for power. An interagency skirmish that now rapidly descends into a battle fought on a global scale.

Miranda Chase, air-crash savant for the National Transportation Safety Board, and her team dive in. The high-risk stakes mount in the battlespace—and a secret from their past could make them the next target. Miranda may become the spark that ignites a war.

My Review:

“Friendly fire” – it sounds kind of warm and snuggly, doesn’t it? In a video game it can be no big deal – except for maybe the resulting trash talk. But in real life, in a real life military situation, it doesn’t matter whether the fire comes from friendlies or foes – because the result is just as deadly no matter who pulls the trigger. It also doesn’t matter whether you know which end of the fire you are on – or why you are on it or why it is happening at all. If it is really happening at all.

The story in Thunderbolt is a wheels-within-wheels political technothriller – the kind the Tom Clancy used to write.

But Miranda Chase isn’t like any of Clancy’s heroes – or anyone else’s. Clarissa Reese, on the other hand, is just the kind of self-centered and villainous operate that Clancy used to wrap whole books around.

And the matchup between Chase and Reese is an absolute doozy every step of the way – even if – or especially because Chase never sees it that way.

All that Miranda Chase ever sees is that there’s a plane (or two, or in this case nine) down, and that it’s up to her to figure out why it happened – so that she can prevent it from ever happening again. Or at least prevent it from ever happening again the exact same way.

After all, that’s why Chase joined the NTSB in the first place, to prevent anyone else from losing their parents the same way that she lost hers – in a crash. Her single-minded focus – and possibly her neuro-atypicality – has made her a savant that even the military calls upon when the situation goes really really pear-shaped. And it makes her a fantastic protagonist for this thrill-a-minute ride of a series.

Miranda Chase doesn’t seem to ever be the person that anyone expects – but when she’s what they need to solve the most complicated problem – she always delivers.

Escape Rating A: I enjoyed Thunderbolt even more than I did the first book in Miranda Chase’s series, Drone. And I liked that one an awful lot. But Thunderbolt is even better – at least in part because the team has already been introduced and set up, so now we get to sit back and enjoy the ride as we watch them work.

Part of what I love about this series so far is the team dynamic. It isn’t quite a “Five-Man Band” or at least not yet, but the roles that the members play do mirror the members of the trope, while at the same time turning the whole thing a bit on its head. Miranda, of course is the leader, and Jeremy is definitely the Smart Guy, but the “Chick” in this group is Mike, the only person whose specialty is human dynamics and not engineering or geekery of any kind. And in a complete subversion, the role of the Lancer (second-in-command) and Big Guy strongman is former SAS operative Holly. So a woman is in the traditional masculine roles while a man is in the traditional female role.

I like a good subversion when it works and this one definitely does.

The other fun thing about this series so far is that both the hero and the villain are women. Women who are at the top of their fields and are both smart and successful. They also represent very different versions of female protagonists/antagonists, as one uses her sexuality as a tool in her arsenal while the other acts as if she doesn’t have any. Another contrast is that one does most of her work through other people, while the other leads from the front. One is very much a manipulator while the other honestly doesn’t understand how other people think or what other people feel well enough to manipulate anyone. Her people follow her because they want to – and with eyes wide open.

I will also say that the while both women are cold in their own ways, it’s Clarissa’s cold calculation of means and ends that really sent chills up my spine. And I hope we get to see her comeuppance in a not too distant entry in the series.

But what makes this book and this series stand out is the edge-of-the-seat thriller of the plot. Just as with the “spheres” that Miranda Chase uses to analyze a crash site, the story begins with a broad focus on a narrow event. There’s a downed plane. Miranda’s team then pokes into, under and around every facet of the crash site and the downed plane. Despite temptation, they do not reach conclusions. They just gather evidence – often right before it blows up in their faces or over their heads. That painstakingly gathered evidence leads, slowly but inexorably, towards the reason why the plane crashed.

That’s it’s never the obvious is what makes Miranda’s investigation so compelling to follow. That someone is out there trying to prevent her from discovering that non-obvious solution is what adds the accelerant to the incendiary device of this story, and puts readers right in the middle of the action watching for the explosion – or its prevention.

I’ll admit that I can’t wait to see what catastrophe Miranda Chase draws as her next assignment, but I’m looking forward to finding out next year in Condor.

“I received a free copy of this title from the publisher for an honest review.” And I honestly loved this story!

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