Thank You to Little, Brown and Company for providing me with an advance copy of Daniel Riley’s novel, Fly Me, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT– The year is 1972, Suzy Whitman has just graduated from a prestigious college and is planning her next move. Grace, her older sister, is loving her life working as a stewardess and living in the beach community of Sela Del Mar. Suzy decides to join her sister in California and applies to be a stewardess at Grand Pacific Airlines. At first, her new career and city seem exciting and glamorous, but then she meets Billy. Billy is charming, slick, and a drug dealer. He tricks Suzy into trafficking drugs on her flights to New York. Quickly, Suzy finds herself caught up in a world that she never asked to be a part of and one that she is finding it increasingly difficult to leave. Can she get out before she gets caught?
LIKE– The strongest aspect of Fly Me is the setting. Riley has clearly done his research to recreate the era when commercial air travel was still glamorous. As we now live in a time where flying is a necessarily evil, rather than a pleasure, there is a longing for the way thing used to be. This evident with television shows like Pan Am and attractions like The Pan Am Experience in Los Angeles, where you can experience a vintage mock flight, that includes menus of the era. Riley has written a glimpse into that world. Additionally, I’m from Los Angeles, so I loved the local references and beach city setting. Fly Me is rich with historical and geographical details.
The ending is outrageous and not necessarily believable, but I was happy that Riley tied together some seeds that he had been planting throughout the story. I had been worried that certain elements wouldn’t pay-off, but they did.
The title is great, it’s a play on a vintage aviation advertisement for National Airlines. It’s a sexist ad, but something straight from the era. Suzy is a strong female character, who bucks tradition, and when she is asked to participate in the campaign, she’s appropriately appalled.
DISLIKE– I felt a lack of urgency, even though Suzy is experiencing issues (might be caught trafficking, father with cancer, et) that should create a natural tension in the story. Even thought situationally, the stakes are sky-high, I never felt that Suzy was overly worried. I just watched an episode of Better Call Saul, where there was a scene with a lower-level drug dealer who has stolen his bosses pills and has replaced the medication with aspirin. The scene in which he has to make the switch with the pills was so intense that my stomach knotted up. It was hard to watch. The tension in Fly Me, should have been like this scene.
I didn’t understand the relationship between Suzy and Billy. They hang-out a lot, even though he is slimy and continues to put her in a dangerous situation. He isn’t quite charming or attractive enough for that to be a solid reason for Suzy to keep coming back. For goodness sakes, he’s an adult who lives in his parent’s basement!
RECOMMEND- Riley is a solid writer and this story is well-researched, but I didn’t love Fly Me. I’d be inclined to check-out Riley’s future novels, but unless you’re very interested in the era or aviation, I can’t recommend this book.