“Murder had followed her; it had reached out toward her from the flying black shadows of the night. There was no reason, no motive, but the sheer fact of it was inescapable.”
It may look like Monica Blane is dancing at the Stork Club. In reality, she’s a million miles away—five years away, to be exact. That’s when the outbreak of war separated her from her friend Linda, and from John Basevi, the man she loved. Just as Monica begins to wonder if it is time to move on with her life, she receives an unexpected message from Linda. If Linda is still alive, then perhaps so is John.
The evening ends with a nightmarish discovery: a dead man in her apartment. She is soon on board a midnight plane to Mexico City, on her way to John with $10,000 cash tucked in her girdle. But what will Monica find when she arrives?
Wings of Fear is a woman-in-peril thriller that lives up to Mignon G. Eberhart’s usual standard, distinguished by its Mexican setting. In wartime Mexico City, Nazi sympathizers rub elbows with refugees and FBI agents. Monica, while not completely stupid, is unprepared for this level of moral ambiguity.
During the course of her trip, Monica is surprised to meet Gibbs, the last of the old friends who spent that golden summer of 1939 together before they were scattered by war. What a coincidence that he is also going to Mexico City, though what business could an Army captain have there? She also finds it hard to forget that an Army captain was seen in the elevator of her apartment building just before a man was killed there. Stranger yet, when shots ring out on the airport tarmac, Gibbs dissuades Monica from reporting the incident.
It is an extraordinary thing to find oneself suddenly on the other side of the barrier of civilized custom, so one cannot ask for police protection because the police are as bitter and inexorable an enemy as the thing one would be protected against.
Even by air, the journey south is a long one. During one of their overnight layovers, Monica awakens to find two men fighting in her hotel room, grappling over a knife in the darkness. Was Gibbs the one who saved her life, or the one who sought to take it? And who was the other man? Monica reaches her destination in an unsettled state of mind.
It was spectacularly beautiful; it was strange and lovely; there was growing enchantment, as if they were adventuring into a strange and beautiful and unfamiliar world. A world where anything might happen. They swept around the pyramids, so low between mountains that they could see the timeless building of hands that had been dust for centuries. Not a new world, she thought, but an old one. With all the knowledge, all the mystery and beauty, the lingering touch of cruelty, the glow and mutability that history leaves, lying there below and ahead of them.
As Monica predicts, Mexico offers the possibility of a fresh start, but only if she can navigate a tangled web of old evils and new troubles.
Befitting the urgency of the times, Eberhart’s writing style has grown leaner here, mostly dropping the flowery excesses of her 1930s works. As a protagonist, Monica has more intelligence than she thinks, but doesn’t always use it. She’s quite capable when she’s alone. As soon as another person enters the picture, however, she loses her confidence. Monica seems especially gauche in comparison to the other characters, who have been permanently affected by their experiences of war. Though it doesn’t go far below the surface, Wings of Fear is a smoothly enjoyable product from Mignon G. Eberhart, with some interesting wartime twists.
Saturday Review, March 3 1945
Intrigue-espionage yarn well-packed with excitement and emotion. Pay-off on Xochimilco canal is first-class. Good thriller.
Wings of Fear is out of print, with used copies widely available.