Airport-Code Red: A BookShot, by James Patterson and Michael White

Eight stars

Patterson welcomes Michael White into the elusive (but growing) group charged with the creation of BookShots, a ‘take no prisoners’ form of short story writing that puts the reader in the middle of quick tales about a plethora of subjects. On a Tuesday evening in Bradford, in Northern England, a terror cell is hashing out the final aspects of a plot to wreak havoc on Europe’s busiest airport, Churchill London International (presumably a dressed-up version of Heathrow). However, while headed towards the English metropolis, authorities are tipped-off and a few base members are taken into custody. After some ‘creative talking maneuvers’ over a few days, a vague version of the plan is revealed, but there will not be enough time if everyone waits for official channel approval. On the Friday morning, at Churchill, former SAS Matt Bates and ex Delta Force Chaz Shoeman are prepared to meet for their annual vacation, a few weeks basking on the Greek Islands. As they rush to the Departures area, they trip upon the beginnings of the terror plot with its first unsuspecting victim. Remaining as calm as possible, and using the training for which they were so well known in their respective militaries, Bates and Shoeman hustle away and try to make contact with the outside world. In another part of the terminal, Hubab Essa has taken over for her husband as the cell’s leader (perhaps somewhat odd given that these are Muslim extremists), promising casualties like never before. A chemical weapon is hidden in the airport and all those guarding the hostages are ready to die for Allah. As Bates and Shoeman try not only to save those passengers whose lives hang in the balance but also communicate with British Special Forces, they must come to terms with the fact that the world is watching their every move. Time is of the essence, leaving no room for error. The type of story that BookShots was meant to convey, Patterson and White hold the reader enthralled until the very last page-turn.

Another successful BookShot, where the reader is never sure what they will get. Patterson and White infuse the right amount of dramatic effect and story into a piece that gives just the right amount of character backstory to keep the reader caring. With a setting that is sure to draw attention and a plot that has been done so may times, the reader receives little notice as to how easy it is to fall into the trap known as a good short story. I felt as though the Bates-Shoeman pairing could have come from a past novel, they work so well together and seem to complement one another well (without offering too many unmanly compliments, haha). If I could make mention of one thing that nagged at me as I read, it would have to be that the underlying theme is overdone to the point of being charbroiled. I have been reading thrillers for many years and since September 2001, it seems that Muslim terrorists is the flavour du jour, which has become old quite quickly. It is overplayed that duping the authorities seems almost impossible, what with racial profiling so high in airports and amongst police forces. On behalf of (I’m sure) a number of us who enjoy a good thriller, find a new angle. Fanatical Scandinavians, quiet but deadly Canadians, even ultra-feminists. The Muslim terrorist seeking to kill the infidel has had its time in the sun. Please, put the idea to rest and leave readers wondering if and how the next terror cell will ever be discovered and captured.

Kudos, Messrs. Patterson and White for another wonderfully crafted piece. While you have worked together on a full-length novel, this goes to show you have great abilities when developing a shorter story together as well.