Death in the Clouds by Agatha Christie
It is 1935, and it is now possible to fly from France to England (and, presumably, back). Hercule Poirot is doing just that at the start of this volume, along with the usual cast of characters that inhabit Christie’s novels. While the great detective sleeps, a woman is quietly murdered, and the crime is not discovered until landing. She was killed with a blowgun dart, and the police soon find a blowgun . . . stuffed into the back of the seat next to Poirot’s! Fortunately, the idea that Poirot did it is never taken seriously by the police, and soon Poirot is off investigating.
It was kind of weird to read about early passenger flight; they seem to treat it much like a train ride, though you can see how it changed to what it is now.
Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair
Okay, fair warning. This is a romance. It’s also a pretty good space opera. Basically, the hero is Trilby Elliot, a young woman who owns her own starfreighter (sorta; it’s in bad shape cause she’s an independent and thus can’t afford a new ship) on an uninhabited planet well off the spacelanes when her sensors pick up an incoming ship. It’s a badly damaged fighter, belonging to the alien race called Ycsko, commonly shortened to ‘Sko. But the pilot, also badly damaged, is human, not ‘Sko. He’s from the Zafharin Empire, which is not currently an enemy of the Conclave, the state from which Trilby claims citizenship, but it has been in the recent past. When he regains consciousness, after a brief misunderstanding, he identifies himself as “Rhis Vanur”. And he finds Trilby fascinating.
Rhis falls quickly for Trilby, and Trilby for him. Together, they begin working not only on getting Rhis back to his people, but on solving what at first seems to be a minor mystery involving some cooperation between the ‘Sko government and Grantforth Galactic Amalgamated, a major Conclave corporation that Trilby has a minor link to herself, having once dated the nephew of the president of the company. But when Rhis’ secret comes out, will it tear them apart?
I don’t usually read romances. Too many of them go for the Harlequinesque (and I should insert here that I in no way look down on either the writers or readers of Harlequin romances, in their [now] many forms; they’re just not for me. And that my opinion of the books is based on books I read many, many years ago; that particular attitude is what bothers me, not what Harlequin actually publishes. I suspect that’s a little torturous–let me know if you don’t get what I mean) sexual politics, in which strong, independant woman meets an overbearing, unlikable man and realises that she has just been waiting for a real man all along. Sinclair doesn’t play that card; while Rhis is often overbearing and frequently an asshole, he comes by it honestly and struggles to overcome it when it seems likely to come between him and Trilby. Trilby, similarely, never compromises on her selfhood. If there is any problem, it’s that the story ends before we find out how they resolve the question of where the two of them will go and what they will do once the mission is finished. I’d have liked a scene of the pair of them cruising the starways on a new freighter, co-captains. I suppose that would have been a bit much to ask, though.