Review: Skibird by M.L. Buchman

Review: Skibird by M.L. BuchmanSkibird (Miranda Chase NTSB #11) by M L Buchman
Format: eARC
Source: author
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: political thriller, technothriller, thriller
Series: Miranda Chase NTSB #11
Pages: 364
Published by Buchman Bookworks on October 25, 2022
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo
Goodreads

When the political battlefield spreads to Antarctica, can the team survive the deep freeze?Those who work there call Antarctica “The Ice.” A secret Russian cargo jet crashes into a crevasse near an Australian Station. The Aussies call in the top air-crash investigators on the planet.The best of them all, Miranda Chase, must face the Russians, Chinese, and use her own autistic abilities to keep her team alive. As the battle spreads across The Ice, are even her incredible skills enough?Or will they all be buried in the frozen wasteland?"Miranda is utterly compelling!" - Booklist, starred review“Escape Rating: A. Five Stars! OMG just start with Drone and be prepared for a fantastic binge-read!” -Reading Reality

My Review:

This one begins, as the entries in this series generally do, with a plane crashing. It’s just that this particular crash is a bit more inconvenient than most. (Considering that the last crash they investigated (in Lightning) was on a remote island in the South China Sea, that’s saying something.) But this one is definitely in a much dicier location.

A Russian cargo plane has crashed near Australia’s main Antarctic base, Davis Station, on Australian territory. In a crevasse. It was supposedly carrying fuel and supplies for Russia’s extremely remote Vostok base.

But when three very disparate teams show up at Davis Station to either “investigate” the crash or prevent it from being thoroughly investigated, there are a whole lot of people who are left wondering just what was in that plane that was worth dying for – or killing for.

Miranda and her team are there because the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has recalled Holly Harper from her secondment to Miranda Chase’s NTSB team – and the Chairman of the (U.S.) Joint Chiefs of Staff has requested that Miranda and the rest of the team go with her. Miranda’s expertise is clearly going to be needed.

The Russians have sent the officer in charge of their Antarctic bases from Moscow to prevent anyone from investigating the crash or even exploring the downed plane – assuming they can. Why the Chinese Central Military Commission have sent their own agent is anyone’s guess once she adds herself to this rather eclectic expedition.

Someone, or something, brought that plane down. The Russians seem dead set on making sure that no one finds out what it was carrying or who might have destroyed it – on pain of death. The Chinese seem to be operating on the principle that if the enemy of my enemy is not exactly my friend, that they and the U.S. might have coinciding interests in whatever caused the crash and/or is causing the Russians panic over the crash.

And Miranda and her team just want to find out why this old, sturdy but reliable plane, in the hands of an extremely capable pilot, turned into such an explosive crash so very far from home. Whether they can do a damn thing about the political explosions that will inevitably follow in their wake is not even on Miranda’s radar.

But she and her team are certainly on someone’s. As always.

Escape Rating A: I love Miranda, and I adore this series, but I found myself wishing that Skibird had come out in the summer. A northern hemisphere summer, that is. Because the author does an entirely too excellent job of describing the extreme conditions under which Miranda’s team conducts their Antarctic investigation. It’s already cold enough around here that I didn’t need to experience the shivers vicariously as well. I’d have appreciated the chilly scenario a lot more in the middle of an Atlanta summer.

That being said, this was a fascinating, albeit chilly, entry in this terrific series. (The series starts with Drone, it’s a compelling adventure conducted by a great team and every entry is an edge or the seat thriller in multiple ways. If any of that appeals to you, or if you’d like to read something that reads a lot like Tom Clancy before he stopped paying attention to his editor, pick up Drone and buckle up for a wild thrill ride.)

Back to hot but nearly-frozen Skibird. I need to explain that a bit.

The stories in the Miranda Chase series often have a “ripped from the headlines” feel – sometimes because they’ve anticipated the headlines. As Miranda and her team head to Antarctica, the U.S. and Russia are in the middle of a proxy war in the former Soviet Bloc countries that may be a Cold War between the major powers but a hot war on the ground. At the same time, the U.S. is in a bit of a Trade War with China while relations between the Chinese and the Russians are fractious and on the point of fracturing.

It’s a mess, and I say that without differentiating between the book and real life.

Miranda and her team are just there to investigate the crash. Miranda’s autism requires her to focus on the job at hand and ignore any chaos that may surround it. The rest of her team are there to help her maintain that focus AND deal with that chaos – often at the same time.

The Russians are clearly up to something. The Chinese are clearly up to taking advantage of the situation between the Russians’ “something” and the Americans trying to get to the bottom of it – preferably without finding themselves at the bottom of another crevasse. The political maneuvering takes place at the highest levels as well as in the lowest of places and Miranda and her team are caught in the middle of it.

But underneath the big, exploding story of crashing planes and illicit arms imports into Antarctica, there’s also a quiet and potentially even more chilling story about the relationships on the team. Holly is panicking because she never expected to be in a relationship – only to finally realize that she is and has been for a couple of years. Miranda never expected to find the level of emotional support and happiness in her life that she has found with Andi, and is worried that the relationship is founded on smoothing out her world and not on love or romance or a partnership of equals.

In other words, both Holly and Miranda are running scared in their own particular ways, causing an even bigger chill in their worlds than the ambient Antarctic temperature.

The political brinkmanship quotient in Skibird is high, the air crash problem solving is even more fraught than usual, and the relationships on the team have never been more brittle. Skibird is a page-turning delight from beginning to end – even while bundled up in the warmest blankets.

Next up for Miranda is Nightwatch, promised for early 2023. Which is a good thing, because I can’t wait!

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