Book Title: Before The Fall
Author: Noah Hawley
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Fiction
Date Read: 07/24/16
Pub Date: 05/31/2016
4.5 STARS (Rounded to 5 on Goodreads)
On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs—the painter—and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members—including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot—the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.
Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.
I’ve read some pretty great books this year; so far I’ve been able to track a total of 107 since January 1st. A few have been total duds, most have been an enjoyable read but utterly forgettable; however, there have been a select few that I have read in 2016 that I would place in a special bracket-memorable, enjoyable, unique and of the highest recommendation. Before The Fall was one of those books. I’ll be thinking about this one for months to come; there is something really intriguing about reading a novel written by someone who typically writes screenplays.
“Everyone has their path. The choices they’ve made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery. You get on an elevator with a dozen strangers. You ride a bus, wait in line for the bathroom. It happens every day. To try to predict the places we’ll go and the people we’ll meet would be pointless.”
I’ll start by saying the careful, articulate crafting of this tale is exquisite. I couldn’t get enough of the way the story unfolded; it truly felt as though I was watching a movie in my mind from the way it was told. We begin and end with the same part of the story; the beginning told from one POV and the end told from another. There are many sections told from Scott’s POV in the present, but also chunks of stories that read as a dossier on the deceased from the plane crash to help us begin to piece together the truth. This truly made me feel a part of the mystery and kept the pages flying by.
“Watching, by definition, is different from doing.”
I loved that this was more than just a surface level mystery relying on cheap thrills to get me by. There were so many deeper aspects to this story, and this is what made it memorable to me. Yes, the mystery of the crash and the unveiling of each character’s background kept me hooked, but I was also as connected to Scott and JJ’s journey; here are two people who survived the odds and have to deal with the trauma of survivors guilt and PTSD while being a part of one of the most prestigious investigations of their (fictional) time. There are so many intricate details, from the Jack Lalanne background to the details involving investigative procedures differing between various forms of law enforcement and military, I could feel an extra level of depth to this story than if the author had chosen to just keep everything focused on a surface level. Every single chapter seemed to tie in together to make one beautiful web of a hauntingly brilliant story.
My only (minor) drawback was the ending. It’s a perfectly good ending, don’t get me wrong. No spoilers here, but I had been expecting it to go in a different direction, and for hundreds of pages we are building up to this massive conclusion and it just seemed a little anticlimactic for me. I understand why the author did it, and the longer I’ve sat on it, the more its grown on me. Who knows; maybe one day, once the shock has worn off, I’ll embrace it more heartily. Even with the ending as it is, this is a fantastic book that is well written with developed characters and nail-biting suspense to keep you from doing the dishes and laundry for two days (not that I know that from personal experience…). Highly recommended to just about anyone, as I feel it has something to offer almost anyone!
*Many thanks to Grand Central Publishing for my copy in exchange for an honest and fair review. They went out of their way to send me a finished hardcover since I was an idiot and didn’t request it on NetGalley in time. You guys rock and are on my gold star list!