Friday, October 28, 2016

Book review: "The Crash Detectives" by Christine Negroni

Depending on your perspective, "The Crash Detectives" may thrill -- or chill.

In this 2016 book, author Christine Negroni details the many ways that planes can crash.

Computers malfunction. Electrical systems fail. The plane itself ruptures. A sudden decompression causes pilots to collapse.

If you're the nervous type, this might leave you anxious about your next flight. But for those who like stories of danger, mystery and -- occasionally -- heroism, Negroni's book is a gripping read.

The book starts fast as Negroni offers her theory regarding the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 340 in 2014. She's only speculating, true, but she builds an impressive case based on knowledge of other aviation mishaps and detailed understanding of how planes work.

Negroni's expertise is impressive. She cites and describes many cases of crashes and near-crashes, aiming to find precisely what went wrong.

After the quick early start, the book slows down. I wasn't as interested in the section on crashes where the true causes have been covered up for political reasons. Not that those cases aren't important -- the mystery of the 1985 Gander crash that killed 248 did get me thinking -- but they tended to focus on backstabbing and cover-your-ass politicking that just wasn't as compelling as the rest of the book.

Negroni also made a tactical error in the last section of the book. In that section, she describes a variety of incidents where pilots' heroism or bold thinking prevented a crash, or at least made it less lethal. But she chose intertwine the stories, bouncing back and forth between them. Frankly, it gets confusing. It would have been better to tell each story separately.

That said, "The Crash Detectives" is still an engaging read. And for all the aviation perils described here, Negroni does make the point that air travel is still the safest way to get around.


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