Sunday, December 15, 2019

Drone by M.L. Buchman (Spotlight, excerpt, and review) ADULT title

(NTSB Military technothriller)
Miranda Chase series
M.L. Buchman (aka Matt Buchman)
ADULT title

"Tom Clancy fans open to a strong female lead will clamor for more." - Publishers Weekly
“Superb!” – Booklist starred review
“The best military thriller I’ve read in a very long time. Love the female characters.” – Sheldon McArthur, founder of The Mystery Bookstore, LA


A US Air Force C-130 transport plane, bearing top secret cargo, lies shattered in the Nevada desert at Groom Lake. China’s prototype fifth-generation jet fighter goes missing.

Far above, a US supersonic, stealth drone flies a very lethal Black Op. The CIA, the US military command, and the secretive National Reconnaissance Office are all locked in a battle for control of the nation’s future.

Miranda Chase, the National Transportation Safety Board’s air-crash savant, lands in the center of the gathering maelstrom. Burdened with a new team and a polarizing personality, she must connect the pieces to stay alive. And she must do it before the wreckage of her past crashes down upon her and destroys US-China relations forever.



Miranda turned very slowly; she’d never faced a weapon before.

She could shoot one well enough, though she’d never enjoyed it particularly. Living in a very isolated area as she did between assignments, it was occasionally necessary to put down an injured animal herself. It still made her cry every time. So beautiful and free in life, then—bang!—gone forever. Just like every victim in a plane crash she’d been unable to prevent.

“I said no goddamn photographs. Now give me that thing.” General Harrington tipped the weapon slightly to indicate her tablet.

The pumping adrenaline made her even more hyperaware of details than normal. Every bit of grit shifting under the sole of her boots was a moment of individual assessment until she came face-to-face with the tiny black hole at the end of the barrel, which seemed to expand until it filled the world.

Now her heartrate was escalating toward panic and her palm went sweaty holding the tablet.

She glanced over the barrel at the scowling general’s face. This time when her eyes refocused on the tip of the barrel, the black hole had returned to its normal size—small, black, and utterly void of feeling.

Before she could decide on the best course of action, a tall blonde came toward them from the landed helicopter—slightly behind the general’s field of view. She could have blindsided him easily. Instead, she scuffed her boot loudly by kicking a thorny scrub brush.

The general flinched and redirected his aim at the newcomer, which caused the blonde to do little more than arch an eyebrow.

“Now isn’t this just so interesting.” Her accent was thickly Australian. She remained at perfect ease as she circled around to stand close beside Miranda.

The handgun tracked her closely.

“Now general, I don’t want to be telling you your job, but is this really the best course of action? First, if you do manage to shoot me, there will be a whole mess of paperwork just pilin’ up higher than Uluru—that’s the big red rock at the center of Australia, by the by, just in case you’re not from around about there—which is a lot of paperwork. Shooting a civilian is very bad form. Even worse, firing on the IIC of the NTSB Go Team investigating your crash would make your motivations appear maybe a tiny bit suspect to people. People you probably don’t want suspecting things about you. However, far more importantly, me former mates in the SAS—that’s the Australian Special Air Service, not my Brit brethren—would be sorely disappointed if I was to let either of those scenarios happen.” She stood as casually as if she was chatting with a friend.

Miranda inspected her more closely.

She was five-ten and looked remarkably fit. Which would be appropriate for coming from the SAS. Australian Special Operations might not be Delta Force, but they were very elite military. Miranda had no idea what she was doing here, but the woman appeared far better prepared to deal with a weapon-bearing general than she herself was.

Her hands—Miranda always noticed hands—were strong and had a wide variety of calluses. The most prominent were on the webbing between thumb and forefinger. Miranda tried flexing her own hand through several positions that different tasks might require, but none of them seemed likely to create such a mark. Unless…

Miranda formed her hand as if she was firing a pistol. Yes, each shot would make the weapon buck against the webbing between thumb and forefinger, which matched the observed data. Just how much did someone have to shoot to create a callus there? Obviously, this woman could answer the question.

“So, mate. I’m asking myself, ‘Holly’—that’s my name, so it’s how I typically address myself—‘Holly, should you break one or both of the general’s hands as you take his weapon?’ For the moment, you may consider that an idle question while you consider the next part. As an extra add-on service, I’d be glad to shoot you with it after I rip it from your bleeding fingers. Just a graze, mind you, so that you could claim you struggled manfully before a Sheila took away your personal weapon and spanked you with it.”

The general’s expressions shifted through a wide range during Holly’s speech. The anger appeared to dissipate, replaced by suspicion and several other emotions that Miranda couldn’t identify. But at Holly’s final threat, the anger had definitely returned.

Miranda looked at her watch.

Her motion had the general returning his aim to her own chest.

Not her best move.

But she saw that they’d already wasted eleven minutes since she should have started her investigation—which would never do. She pushed the barrel aside and stepped into his personal space. He stumbled back.

She’d have to remember this tactic.

He snapped off the safety with a sharp click as if that was somehow more threatening than the black hole at the end of the barrel.

It was.

She began swallowing compulsively.

Maybe this wasn’t her best idea after all.

But, damn it, there had to be limits. She ignored the weapon and followed through with the initial impetus that had sent her forward. Bending down, she photographed an object that she’d spotted when looking down at her watch. It had been partly under the general’s boot.

“What’s that?” He didn’t lower his aim, so it was now pointed where her head had been. Failure to track her as a target? Reverting once more from aggression to confusion. She really didn’t understand people. Or perhaps he was just a pile of inconsistencies, shifting before she could analyze one moment from the next.

Miranda selected a pair of needle-nose pliers from her vest and delicately lifted the disk of metal, shaking it lightly to clear the dirt. Then she held it up in the general’s face, just inches away.

“Hey!” he stumbled back another step, his weapon swinging down to point at the ground.

“This is the dial card for an aircraft’s analog compass.”

The helicopter that had delivered the blonde former SAS soldier and a man who remained in the background took off again, forcing Miranda to shout.

“Normally I would ask myself what force could possibly move such an object so far from its point of impact. However, now that you’ve stepped on it, I must ask if it was bent by the force of the crash and thrown this far. Or, if your interference with the site has misplaced and damaged what may have been a key piece of evidence in my investigation. Now move your vehicle back fifty meters and leave me alone. And tell your pilots to stop flying over my crash site.”

She turned away and carefully bagged the compass dial.

It took her three tries as her hand was still shaking with a fury she was unused to. The fear…had been too familiar; an emotion she’d worked very hard to leave behind. Apparently not.

The fact that the dial face had come from a Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and had been sitting in the desert for at least fifteen years based on the scaling and edge corrosion was of little relevance to her. It made her point. Besides, she didn’t have one of this generation in her collection—bent or otherwise.


 (Note from ELF: Be advised that this is much darker than some of the other series by this author. I have been informed that things have been toned down slightly from the version I read, but please be aware of possible triggers)

My review:

4.25 stars

Drone by M.L. Buchman is an intense thriller that introduces Miranda Chase in the debut novel for her series. A mysterious aircraft crash in a very restricted area is Miranda’s newest assignment, but not only is she stymied at every turn in her quest to perform her duties, she is also saddled with a new team. There are mysteries underlying the mysteries, but careful analysis may be the clue to uncovering a shocking revelation that will reverberate around the world.

I will start by offering a trigger warning. Those who are sensitive to scenes of sexual abuse should be aware that there are multiple references sprinkled through the story. Personally, I had to step away from the book a couple of times, but I AM glad that I finished the story because it is an entertaining and compelling tale, and I like Miranda and would like to read more of the series. I was disturbed by the initial allusions of abuse that set up the background for a couple of the women, and although I understood that some of this was to lay the groundwork for motivation…I was sickened by the multiple descriptions of power inequity.

Fortunately, I did continue. As usual, this author introduces complex characters who are adept at confounding and fascinating both one another and the reader. There are multiple points of view, with a glimpse of the power games that nations play, and a thought-provoking demonstration of the price that many pay for machinations that may be part of a very long game. There is a nicely contained mystery that unfolds even as we come to know the major players in this particular story but there are also dangling threads that undoubtedly will come into play in subsequent stories. Those who enjoy intricate and intense spy thrillers as well as wonderfully competent and insightful heroines should definitely give this book a try and get pulled into an entertaining new series.

A copy was provided for review


  1. love strong female characters and this sounds like one that would work for me
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. Thank you for the trigger warning. I love strong female characters.