Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Wing and a Prayer (The Air Transport Auxiliary Mystery Club #1), by M.W. Arnoldun

The Wild Rose Press, November 2020

In World War Two England, Betty Palmer's sister, Eleanor, dies while flying a Tiger Moth--officially due to asphyxia while flying the plane too high. Yet Betty doesn't believe it, not least because Tiger Moths can't reach that kind of altitude. Also, Eleanor remained functional enough to land the plane rather than crash it, though she was dead by the time ground crew reached her.

Betty's friends in the Air Transport Auxiliary, civilian pilots who fly military planes to where the military pilots need them, decide they're going to help Betty solve the mystery of what really happened--and who killed Eleanor Palmer.

In the beginning, it's Betty and the three women assigned to live in her house, connected to the airbase. Penny Blake is estranged from her family, in part due to her decision to join the ATA. Mary Whitworth-Baines is shy around people but loves planes and flying. Doris Winter is an American looking for a new start after heartbreaking events back home. They're all smart and determined, and they bond under both the stresses of flying war planes with no ammunition, radio, or instrument flight training, and the quest to find Eleanor's killer.

The characters, not just these four women, but the women and the men around them at this small airbase, are individual and well-developed. The story is complex and interesting, as they begin to unearth the evidence of a black market crime ring, and in the process form more friendships and expand the circle trying to find answers. 

We also getting a fascinating look at one of the most overlooked aspects of WWII, in both the UK and the US: civilian women flying the same planes the military men would fly into battle, with less training, no ammunition despite the fact that German planes did cross the channel and could encounter the ATA pilots, and no radios. It was dangerous work, but the ATA pilots weren't recognized as military. The ATA had both men and women flying for it, but the base this story is set at, Hamble, had only women pilots.

Some interesting differences between the ATA and its American equivalent, the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), include the fact that in 1943, the ATA women started getting equal pay with their male colleagues, while the WASP continued to get about 65% of what the men got. On the other hand, the WASP got radios and radio communication training, and were recognized as veterans in 1977. The ATA pilots had to wait until 2008 for official recognition as veterans by the British government.

173 ATA aircrew and 38 WASP pilots died in service to their countries.

This is a good mystery and a good historical novel. Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley of this book from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

No comments:

Post a Comment