Her Last Flight by Beatriz Williams
English | 2020 | Historical Fiction | ePUB | 2.5 MB
Beatriz Williams, the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Wives, is back with another hot summer read; a dazzling epic of World War II in which a beautiful young “society reporter” is sent to the Bahamas, a haven of spies, traitors, and the infamous Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
The beloved author returns with a remarkable novel of both raw suspense and lyric beauty— the story of a lost pilot and a wartime photographer that will leave its mark on your soul.
In 1947, photographer and war correspondent Janey Everett arrives at a remote surfing village on the Hawaiian island of Kauai to research a planned biography of forgotten aviation pioneer Sam Mallory, who joined the loyalist forces in the Spanish Civil War and never returned. Obsessed with Sam’s fate, Janey has tracked down Irene Lindquist, the owner of a local island-hopping airline, whom she believes might actually be the legendary Irene Foster, Mallory’s onetime student and flying partner. Foster’s disappearance during a round-the-world flight in 1937 remains one of the world’s greatest unsolved mysteries.
At first, the flinty Mrs. Lindquist denies any connection to Foster. But Janey informs her that the wreck of Sam Mallory’s airplane has recently been discovered in a Spanish desert, and piece by piece, the details of Foster’s extraordinary life emerge: from the beginnings of her flying career in Southern California, to her complicated, passionate relationship with Mallory, to the collapse of her marriage to her aggressive career manager, the publishing scion George Morrow.
As Irene spins her tale to its searing conclusion, Janey’s past gathers its own power. The duel between the two women takes a heartstopping turn. To whom does Mallory rightfully belong? Can we ever come to terms with the loss of those we love, and the lives we might have lived?
I start forward. The cockpit windows are opaque, the blades of the propellers frozen in place. On the side of the fuselage, a door hangs ajar. The wind howls on my cheek. It’s impossible to imagine that nobody has stood here before me, that I alone have discovered this wreckage—you! at last!—but that’s what years of civil war and reprisal and misery will do. Things get left behind and forgotten, because nobody exists to remember them. The wind howls around you and covers you in drifts of sand until a single woman, bedeviled by the mystery of your fate, encounters some tiny clue, entirely by chance. Now here she stands. At last, you are remembered. You are found.
On the other side of the doorway, the world is dark. I fish the flashlight from my coat pocket and switch it on, but there isn’t much to see. Every surface is coated in dust. A pile of sand spreads from the entrance and across the floor—deck, I suppose—according to the direction of the wind that carried it. Because of the slanting platform beneath me, I feel unbalanced, not quite sound. I sweep the beam around the cabin. The space is cramped and narrow and bare, as if someone cleared all the trappings to make room for things that are no longer there. I step toward the cockpit. My pulse thuds in my throat. But the seat is empty, the dials and switches blanketed by dirt and nothing else. I touch the wheel, which is not like the steering wheel of a car but open at the top, incomplete, a pie missing a wedge. When I examine my finger, the dirt is the same dun color as the landscape around me, as the dirt that covers the windows like a curtain, blocking the light.
On the deck next to the pilot’s seat, a large, heavy book catches the flashlight’s beam, face down, spine broken, pages splayed. Like everything else, it’s covered in dirt, but I lift it anyway and brush away what dust I can.
I flip through the pages. A logbook.
I am not a pilot—this is the first time in my adult life that I’ve boarded any kind of airplane, intact or otherwise—and the entries, written in faded purple-black letters, might as well be Latin. Still I pass my fingers over them. Because whose hands touched this last? Whose pen wrote those letters and numbers? In one column, the farthest left, I recognize dates. The last one is 13 MAY 1937. To the right, in the next column, reads 0522. Five twenty-two a.m.?
I set the logbook on the seat and sweep the flashlight once more around the cabin, and as I do, an object catches my eye at the rear, near the tail, tucked in the seam between deck and wall.
It is a pile of something. A pile of clothes, attached to a boot.