This post is part of a blog tour organised by Random Things Blog Tours. I received a free copy of the book in return for an honest review.
‘Argentina. 1998. Human remains are found on a beach on the outskirts of Buenos Aires – a gruesome echo of when the tide brought home dozens of mutilated bodies thrown from planes during Argentina’s Dirty War. Flights of death, with passengers known as The Disappeared.
‘International Tribune reporter Jonny Murphy is in Buenos Aires interviewing families of the missing, desperate to keep their memory alive, when the body turns up.
‘His investigations with his companion, freelance photographer Paloma Glenn, have barely started when Argentina’s simmering financial crisis explodes around them.
‘As the fabric of society starts to disintegrate and Argentine cities burn around them, Jonny and Paloma are suddenly thrust centre stage, fighting to secure both their jobs and their livelihoods.
‘But Jonny is also fighting something else, an echo from his own past that he’ll never shake, and as it catches up with him and Paloma, he must make choices that will endanger everything he knows…’
Death Flight, by Sarah Sultoon, picks up with 26-year-old international newspaper reporter Jonny Murphy in 1998, two years after the events of Dirt.
Still reeling from what he learned about his family in Israel, alongside Mexican-American photographer Paloma, Jonny has been stationed in Argentina to report on its developing financial crisis.
When a dead body washes ashore, in a manner reminiscent of the victims of the country’s Dirty War several years previously, the pair are compelled to investigate, triggering a terrifying game of cat-and-mouse with people who will go to any lengths to protect national secrets.
Every time I start a Sarah Sultoon novel, I just know I’ll learn something new that absolutely grabs my attention, and this was very much the case with Death Flight. I’d never even heard of Argentina’s Dirty War (1974-83) before, and the details shocked me, while providing a captivating premise for a story.
During this period of military rule, tens of thousands of people suspected of being left-wing were “disappeared”. Thousands of them were ultimately killed by the eponymous “death flights”, whereby they were dropped into the sea from aeroplanes. This has understandably had long-lasting effects for Argentians left wondering what became of their loved ones and seeking redress.
Accordingly, you can really feel the emotions driving Death Flight. Jonny and Paloma pursue the story of the body on the shore not only out of journalistic interest, but as a result of an encounter with someone whose feelings have been stirred up by it.
They also talk to the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, who stake out the principal Buenos Aires square in a persistent and moving demand for answers concerning their missing children and grandchildren.
What’s more, it transpires that Jonny isn’t the only one of the pair experiencing inner turmoil, and Paloma has her own reasons for being in Argentina and investment in the story.
While the other books of Sultoon’s I’ve read – Dirt and The Shot – get very tense at times, Death Flight really ups the ante.
Virtually from the start, Jonny and Paloma have to watch their backs, and the situation escalates to the point where they essentially have to go on the run, putting as much distance between themselves and Buenos Aires as possible and calling on mysterious trusted contacts of Jonny’s editor for supplies.
Despite their precautions, they find themselves the subject of a series of increasingly dangerous situations, and I was on the edge of my seat, flying through the pages to find out if/how they were going to survive them.
The intensity of the emotion and action doesn’t mean there’s no room for levity, though. For one thing – when they’re not in mortal danger, at least! – the pair’s interactions tend to be quite funny and playful. I was also amused by Jonny’s (surprisingly successful) infiltration of the ESMA, where prisoners were held and tortured during the Dirty War.
Death Flight is a fascinating, high-octane political thriller.