“Skyjack” by J. K. Howe starts on March 10, 1956 with the loss of two nuclear containers full of material with a 704 million-year half-life, an ominous start to an ominous book. It is the second book featuring freedom broker Thea Paris, but it is not necessary to have read “Freedom Broker,” the previous book. This book stands on its own, and is full of treachery, betrayal, and bad guys who are not always bad and vice versa.

Thea Paris is on a business jet for Quantum International Security. In her job as freedom broker, she travels undercover to global hot spots and handles risk management and kidnap negotiations. She hates to fly, yet here she is on a business jet, and things are suddenly not going well. The descriptions might make one hesitant to EVER fly again.

“The world tilts upward, the plane’s nose pitches skyward sharply. Thea’s right hand reached for the overhead compartment, her fingers connecting with the latch. She clung to it, but as it took her weight, the latch popped open. She lolled backward, then kipped herself forward, grabbing the inside lip with both hands. Like a rock climber hanging from a dangerous precipice, her body swung back and forth, teetering.”

In the midst of the turbulence, a man becomes ill, passes out. What is worse is that the pilot has locked the cabin door, preventing the co-pilot or crew from entering. It is clear that someone has gone to a lot of trouble to hijack this plane. Which passenger do they want, and why? Of course, Thea’s job now becomes re-hijacking the 737 as international forces ramp up for the rescue.

There are two story lines, one involving with the hijacked plane in the middle of the Libyan Desert, and the other in Innsbruck, Austria involving seventeen-year-old Johann Dietrich and his father, a successful weapons manufacturer with clients around the world.

Both scenarios are well developed and compelling. Chapters present multiple points of view and alternate between the storylines. There are clear definitions so readers follow the developments in each scenario.

The tension is thick in the air, and details jump from the page in breath holding action. Minute by minute the trauma increases, and explicit details to paint a dramatic picture.

“Bullets slammed into the steel around her extended arm. A sharp stab of pain. Unable to hold on, she dropped the rifle and pulled her arm back inside. Blood soaked the shirtsleeve just below the elbow.”

There are terrorists, traitors, hostages, political refugees, hidden agendas, sleeper cells, secret walls, keys, dungeons, bystanders both innocent and insidious, and just plain bad guys. Many do not make it out alive, and some deaths are very personal. The political conspiracy and international intrigue are as up to date as if the reports were on tonight’s news.

Even on a hijacked plane, there is always one … “I need my checked bag.” “Hand luggage only. This is a hijacking, not a connecting flight!” “But I have presents for my grandchildren.” “ Move.”

And I love that in the midst of the pursuit, Thea gets a tourist out of the way by sending her to a book signing at a bookstore around the corner.

I received a copy of “Skyjack” from J. K. Howe, Quercus, and NetGalley. This quote sums up the book:

“I woke up this morning thinking it’d be another run-of-the-mill flight, and I actually said to myself, I hope something exciting happens today. Be careful what you wish for.”