2 Mins read

Written by Jessica Barry — In some crime novels, the wrongdoing hits you between the eyes from page one. With others it’s a more subtle process, and that’s OK too. So where does Freefall fit into the sliding scale?

In truth, it’s not clear. This is a novel with a thrilling concept at its core. A woman survives plane crash, then runs for her life. However, it is the subtleties at play that will draw you in like a spider beckoning to an unwitting fly.

Like the heroine in Sharon Bolton’s Dead Woman Walking, Allison is lucky to be alive. She was the only passenger in a private plane, belonging to her fiancé, Ben, who was piloting the expensive aircraft, when it came down in woodlands in the Colorado Rockies. Ally is also the only survivor, but rather than sitting back and waiting for rescue, she is soon pulling together items that may help her survive a little longer – first aid kit, energy bars, warm clothes, trainers – before fleeing the scene. If you’re hearing the faint sound of alarm bells ringing, get used to it. There’s much, much more to learn about Ally before this tale is over.

Back in Maine, Ally’s widowed mother, Maggie, is gathering herself for another day of solitude, deciding to bake bread to break the tedium. The simple domestic scene is shattered when the chief of police, who is an old friend, makes an unscheduled visit. What he has to say sends Maggie into a tailspin. Ally, her beloved only daughter, is dead – killed in a plane crash.

It’s just two years since Maggie buried her husband Charles, who had colon cancer, and the circumstances of his death pushed the mother and daughter apart. Bereft as she is, Maggie can’t shake the feeling that there’s something off-kilter about the crash. She begins to investigate, and what she discovers seems to prove her point. More and more, Maggie has the feeling that her daughter is still alive and if no one is prepared to listen to the apparent rantings of a grieving mother, then how is she to act upon her intuition?

Maggie may be retired and somewhat retiring, but her maternal instincts lead her to act completely out of character. She sets off to California, where her daughter had been living before the crash, and tries to sort out the truth from the fiction. But her future son-in-law was the boss of a big pharmaceutical firm – and crime readers know haw darned secretive they can be. Meanwhile, Ally is hanging onto life, and her sanity, by her bloodied and tattered fingernails. She can’t do this alone, but who can she trust?

As the action flips between the two women, we’re pulled into a story that’s so realistic and so unpredictable that it’s really difficult to put the book down and get on with everyday life. I read Freefall over a couple of nights, and between the two sessions it was hard to get it out of my head. Notwithstanding the thriller aspects of this book, what stands out is the love between a mother and her daughter, strained to breaking point over the years but hanging in there by the merest thread.

Jessica Barry is the pen name of British-based American romantic novelist Melissa Pimentel and this is her crime fiction debut. It’s already been sold to 17 territories worldwide and has picked up a Hollywood film deal along the way. It’s easy to see why, as this is a book with two strong women at its heart. I look forward to seeing it on the big screen, but in the meantime, I urge you to grab a copy of Freefall and enjoy the ride.

Also try The Golden Child by Wendy James, or for a dodgy plane crash see Sibel Hodge’s The Disappeared.

Harvill Secker

CFL Rating: 5 Stars

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