FIRE ON THE RUNWAY
by Mel Bradshaw
Fire on the Runway is not so much of a mystery as a spy story set mainly in Toronto during the Jazz Age, after World War I. It's the second outing for Bradshaw's Toronto cop, Paul Shenstone, a man who like many at that time, had served overseas during the war.
The story is as much that of 'Lucy', a mysterious woman who is found unconscious at the scene of a bomb blast in a downtown hotel. When she comes to, it appears she doesn't speak English so Shenstone has her taken to the hospital while he continues the on-site investigation. When it comes time to further question Lucy, she's done a runner and Shenstone blames himself.
Lucy's story is intertwined throughout the novel. We learn of her early days growing up in Poland and the point at which her sympathies turned to the Marxist credo and her loyalties, to Russia as they invaded her home country in 1920. Her life as a spy and temptress is as intriguing as the details of the war unfolding in that part of the world. Her story continues as, disillusioned, she flees to the U.S. with stolen film outlining German rearmament, with the aid of Russia. Turns out, she's being tracked every step of the way and the bomb in Toronto was meant for her.
As Bradshaw finds Lucy again, rather she finds him, and he learns of her story, he's drawn into the urgency of her quest. At this point, she wants to turn over the film to the Canadian government. Unable to elicit the support of the Toronto police, Shenstone turns to the RCMP, and eventually to a WWI flying ace, Kip Whitehead which leads to a betrayal that shocks them all.
There's plenty of action in Fire on the Runway to keep readers turning the pages. The attention to historical detail is well worth the read. In fact, this novel can be read on many levels -- as history, as spy thriller, and as the continuing adventures of a Toronto cop.
Mel Bradshaw, nominated for an Arthur Ellis Award for Best First Novel for Death in the Age of Steam, continues to delight crime fans who enjoy delving into the past, along with solving their mysteries.