Review

Night Fall

by Nelson DeMille



Nelson DeMille hastens to tell us in his introduction to NIGHT FALL
that this is a work of fiction, based on fact. Indeed; NIGHT FALL
revolves around an unofficial reinvestigation of the midair
explosion in July 1996 that took TWA Flight 800 and the 230 poor
souls entrusted to it into oblivion. This is the vehicle by which
DeMille, through his two popular, recurring characters, examines
what occurred and reaches some uncomfortable, though plausible,
conclusions.

The catalyst of NIGHT FALL is an illicit tryst between a man and a
woman --- married, but not to each other --- on a July evening in
1996 on a Long Island beach. Props include a hotel blanket, a
bottle of wine and, most significantly, a video camera that
preserves for posterity not only their activity but also the last
moments of TWA Flight 800 as it explodes. The official explanation
is that the terrible incident was the result of mechanical failure;
five years later, however, doubts remain.

John Corey, a contract agent with the Federal Anti-Terrorist Task
Force, attends the annual memorial service for the victims of the
disaster. Corey’s attendance is occasioned by his wife, Kate
Mayfield, a career FBI agent who was part of the original Flight
800 investigation. Mayfield is dissatisfied with the conclusions of
the investigation and feels that the evidence --- much of which was
ignored in the original report --- needs a fresh look. Corey, who
has never encountered a rule he couldn't break in pursuit of the
greater good, is not entirely convinced that the original
conclusion is incorrect, although the eyewitness accounts of
trained observers --- accounts that note the presence of what
appears to be a missile speeding toward the plane --- are difficult
to discount.

What ultimately causes Corey to clandestinely revisit the evidence
is the vehement resistance he encounters as he begins to slowly but
surely uncover a conspiracy to conceal the truth of what actually
happened. A former New York City Police detective, Corey is not
without a network of contacts, and as he begins calling in favors
and connecting evidentiary dots, he discovers that a crucial piece
of evidence, thought to be destroyed, still exists --- and
establishes the truth of what really happened on that fateful July
night.

A substantial portion of NIGHT FALL --- close to the first third of
the novel --- is given over to a discussion of the conflicting
evidence. DeMille not only makes the discourse a fascinating one
but also argues the opposing points so well that no matter how
convinced one might be about the cause of the Flight 800 explosion,
they will walk away full of doubt. I say this as a person who, upon
first hearing the news of the disaster, said, “That was
a…rocket.”

At the same time DeMille keeps the narrative crisp, building
suspense page by page, and quietly but effectively dropping
surprise after surprise from beginning to end. DeMille also plays
fairly; attentive readers will see where he is going, though they
won't know what will happen once he gets there. The end result
answers some questions, and raises others.

While it has a definite ending, this novel leaves open the
possibility, even the need, for a sequel. Still, NIGHT FALL stands
on its own as a memorable, disturbing work that resonates long
after the final page is read. Recommended.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 13, 2011

Night Fall
by Nelson DeMille

  • Publication Date: November 1, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Vision
  • ISBN-10: 0446616621
  • ISBN-13: 9780446616621