As a PI-in-Training, our intrepid Cat Caliban has wisely partnered up with friend and neighbor Moses Fogg who is a retired cop. Cat knew that celebrating Independence Day with Moses’ family would be much more fun than with her own family. While they were enjoying their holiday the 4th of July excitement level cranked up a few notches when a small plane crash-landed in a nearby field and the pilot who crawled out of the wreckage turned out to be a woman.
Toots Magruder was extremely apologetic for “crashing” their picnic but her regret quickly turned to anger when she suspected someone had tried to sabotage her engine. Toots went on to relate to Cat and Moses a brief history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). During WWII young women who were passionate about flying traveled from all over the country at their own expense to get to Avenger Field in Sweetwater Texas for training. These courageous women flew every plane the Army had, from single engines to big multi-engine bombers, and as pilots they outflew their male counterparts and took flak for doing it. Literally. There was a group of eight WASP that were in the same B-26 training class to fly bombers. They made a great contribution to the war effort as human targets. Not targets per se but by flying planes that were towing targets for the gunnery guys to fire at using live ammo! Definitely courageous and maybe just a little crazy. But now someone had the group of eight in their target sights.
When the WASP program ended, more than a thousand women that had been assigned to bases all over the country were disbanded and summarily sent home with no notice, no severance pay and no benefits. As a side note, Congress was voting to abruptly end the program while simultaneously, women were already en route to Avenger Field for training. They had quit their jobs, sold off their possessions and some had even borrowed money to pay their fare to Sweetwater. Instead of the training they were expecting, they had to find a way home on their own dime. Some were lucky enough to hitch rides part of the way on military aircraft.
Now, forty years later in 1986 and within days of each other, two of these eight women have died in eerily similar home ‘accidents’. Coincidental? Maybe. Maybe not but Toots hired Cat and Moses to find out if there really is a killer at work and why. What does the killer have to fear from a group of sixty-somethings who are former WASP?
In “Eight Miles High” Cat repeatedly expresses her fear of flying but her protestations are virtually ignored by Moses and Toots as they prepare for a reunion of the eight WASP at the upcoming Dayton Air Show. Given the time constraints and the complications from her fear of flying Cat has her work cut out for her if she hopes to catch the killer.
If you’ve already been introduced to Cat you know that she enjoys her G&T (Gin and Tonic) and when the situation demands it, she can swear like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Even though she’s not yet a licensed PI her instincts are spot on when it comes to reasoning out who dunnit and why. What’s not to love about a colorful sixty-something widow who wants a shot at a second career? Besides, I agree with Cat that motherhood is highly overrated.
Author D.B. Borton has expertly woven the Women Airforce Service Pilots history into the eighth book of Cat’s escapades. One of the features of her writing style that I especially admire is the authenticity of her character’s voices. Their Midwestern expressions are true and easily identifiable by anyone who has lived in or near the Ohio Valley. I was almost homesick until I remembered the winters. Never mind – scratch the homesickness. Five stars.
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