BREAKING POINT is one of the best books to be published in 2011. If you read CRASHERS, Dana Haynes’s debut effort, you won’t be surprised. Haynes starts with a plot that picks you up by the seat of your pants and moves at MACH 3. He peppers his story through and through with instantly likable and memorable characters, and some horribly chilling ones as well. He starts clocks ticking all through the tale, and then ends with an event that promises to be huge, terrifying and unforgettable. He does all of this, and more, with a narrative that is sure-footed and steady, and that frequently shifts scenes and changes points of view without ever getting lost in the sound of his own voice.
"There is mystery, action, suspense, death and romance from beginning to end, and the last 60 or so pages are strictly jaw-dropping. The result is something that you’ll take with you long after you read the last page."
This follow-up to CRASHERS marks the return of Dr. Leonard “Tommy” Tomzak and Kiki Duvall, who are both Crashers with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Crashers are tasked with determining the cause of airplane crashes, pure and simple. Tomzak, a pathologist, and Duvall, a sound engineer and former naval officer, are two of the best at what they do. It is accordingly somewhat ironic that the pair is traveling on a twin turbo prop plane flying to Seattle when their mode of transportation suddenly crashes near a small timber town in Montana.
Please note: Haynes doesn’t soft-soap an airplane crash. He tells you what is going on in the cockpit, in the passenger areas, outside, in the engines, the whole nine yards. And it is terrifying as anything you will read. Remember the airplane crash scene in the movie Cast Away, the one that lasted for three years or so? Haynes can make such a scenario even more frightening on the printed page. And this crash is no accident. The plane is brought down deliberately by a shadowy group within a group that is developing weapons technology banned by an international treaty.
There are three people on the plane who had planned to blow the whistle on the group, and they are the targets of the crash. The instrumentality used to bring the plane down is a legendary and terrifying figure in the black ops world known as Calendar; he is first on the scene of the crash, yet is anything but a first responder. I guarantee that you will not soon forget Calendar, to the point where your answer to any question asked of you by a stranger will be “I don’t know.”
Calendar, however, is just one element that makes this book memorable. Haynes throws a bunch of scenarios into the air and puts them at cross purposes with each other. The leader of the Crashers assigned to investigate is brilliant, but a rigid, arrogant jerk, and the team is compromised. Tomzak and Duvall are limited in what they can tell the team, yet they hold important keys to what occurred. And a deadly search is on for a missing satchel that has become extremely important in the aftermath of the crash.
There is mystery, action, suspense, death and romance from beginning to end, and the last 60 or so pages are strictly jaw-dropping. The result is something that you’ll take with you long after you read the last page. I would not be surprised if it was revealed one day that Haynes is actually a consortium of thriller authors writing under a pseudonym. I know he isn’t; he lives in Portland and has a bunch of cats and a job with a university. But read BREAKING POINT and ask yourself how someone with just two books under his belt can be this good, and then get back to me.