4 out of 4 stars
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Low Flying by John Reynolds is a crime thriller set in New Zealand. Matt Bullock is a university student in Auckland who's taking flying lessons. He brings his girlfriend Fleur to the aeroclub, where his flying instructor Jason Collins hits on her. Matt sees that, and a fistfight starts between the two men, who must be separated by other people. Enraged, Matt asks his father to find some dirt on Jason. His father turns to Vladimir Zhukov, a Russian who came to New Zealand using forged papers and runs a gang involved in various criminal activities.
When Vladimir Zhukov discovers that Jason Collins is smuggling medical drugs from Australia, he sees an opportunity to expand his own illegal activities. Zhukov is a ruthless man who thinks he can make Jason an offer he can't refuse. Things get heated when Jason isn't willing to accept Zhukov's demands. Fleur, who had dumped Matt favoring Jason, gets caught in the middle of the clash between Jason and Zhukov.
Flying lovers will be delighted by this novel, as flying is central in the plot, not only for Matt's flying lessons at the beginning but because it's an important part of the whole plot. For example, an aircraft is used to smuggle medical drugs from Australia to New Zealand.
This is the kind of story that starts with an event that seems even trivial, but then the situation escalates in unexpected ways. The characters make choices that have consequences they didn't expect. A fight over a woman leads to the involvement of Vladimir Zhukov, who makes things dangerous for everyone.
There are a number of positive elements in this novel. The author develops the important characters very well, giving them their backstories that show why they act in certain ways. There's a chapter that tells the story of Vladimir Zhukov growing up in the then USSR, fighting in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion, and moving to New Zealand using forged papers. There are many twists in the plot that are cleverly built using the characters' motives and behaviors with consistency. The growing danger present in the novel and the twists kept my attention until the end. There's a lot to like in this novel while there's nothing I did not like.
There are some sexual references and various violent moments, but the author never gets into details. In my opinion, that makes the novel suitable for young adults. I'm happy to report that this book is exceptionally well edited, as I found no errors. Low Flying is a crime thriller I found engaging for its well-developed characters and its twists in a story that flows with a good pacing, so I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. If you're looking for an intriguing crime thriller, this one is a must-read, particularly if you love flying.
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