There is something about the P-38 Lightning that excites the inner child. Its eccentric-yet-attractive layout epitomized grace and speed in a way that few aircraft from its era could match. The Lightning was exceptionally fast when it first flew in early 1939, and entered World War II as the Army Air Force's only competitive fighter aircraft. Long before the P-47 Thunderbolt or P-51B Mustang were in service, the Lightning was providing fighter cover over North Africa, defending airfields from the Aleutians to Guadalcanal and New Guinea, and escorting bombers to targets - and even striking targets - beyond the range of any other Allied day fighter.
Yet the P-38 was hindered by problems. Compressibility made high-speed dives unacceptably dangerous in early versions. There were engine problems in the subzero high altitudes over northern Europe. Yet even in the roles that challenged it the most, including photo-reconnaissance over the contested skies of occupied Europe, and escorting Eighth Air Force's `heavies' against determined Luftwaffe opposition, the Lightning provided vital services.
Author Jerry Scutts describes the Lightning's design and history in a work of nice quality, with plenty of photographs, informative tables, and supplemental text boxes. He balances admiration for the Lightning's innovative nature with an astute understanding of its limitations. He gives adequate covering to all the different theaters of war, and the numerous combat and reconnaissance roles the Lightning served. The narrative delivers a fine balance between readability and technical detail. There are multiple appendices listing P-38 groups and squadrons, keys to aircraft serial numbers, a glossary, and more. You should only pick this title if you have a serious interest. That said, this is the best, more comprehensive account of the P-38 Lightning I have yet read.