Fireball Explores Actress Carole Lombard’s Mysterious Death


Is there a more overwrought critical description of a book than “page-turner”? It’s weak, non-descriptive and usually indicates the reviewer had nothing else to say. So call me “weak” when I use that exact phrase to describe Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3, a gripping story of actress Lombard’s death in a fiery plane crash in 1942 on Mount Potosi just southwest of Las Vegas, where remnants of the accident remain to this day.

Author Robert Matzen has woven a tale that is part biography (Lombard’s, her co-stars’ and lovers’, and Hollywood’s), part mystery and part historical dissection of the inexplicable crash—and it’s damn-near impossible to put down. Where Fireball really succeeds is in its structuring. Interspersing Lombard’s fascinating life (with nods to the other 21 passengers who died) with the scene on the ground and the rescue and recovery effort, Matzen lends a well-researched reality to a night shrouded in mystery.