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Before the Fall Bets On...

Before the Fall

June 2016

Something I noted as I started BEFORE THE FALL was that earlier this year I read AFTER THE CRASH, which was another Bets On selection. Is this the year of the airline thriller for me? I fastened my seatbelt and settled in for the ride. The author of BEFORE THE FALL is Noah Hawley, who many of you may recognize for his fame as the creator of “Fargo.” He knows how to draw a reader in quickly and provide well-measured suspense. It’s brisk at the start and totally compelling. Once you start reading, it will be a while before you look up --- and when you do, you will have tripped over a lot of red herrings!

The setup goes like this. It’s a foggy night on Martha’s Vineyard when a private jet takes off destined for New York. On board we have 11 people; six of them are the types for whom private jets are part of their travel lexicon. Three are the pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant. The 11th is a painter who was invited along at the last minute. Sixteen minutes into the flight, the plane is in the water, and there are only two survivors. The question from the start: Why did it go down?

Hawley lays out the characters briskly, considering that when we meet them they are destined to die in minutes. We have David Bateman, who runs a 24-hour cable news network that sounds a lot like Fox News, his wife Maggie, his daughter Rachel, and his son, JJ. Because his station’s news often spurs a lot of controversy, one of David’s perks is Gil, who is their domestic security; we would think of him as their bodyguard. He’s out kicking the tires and doing a routine check before takeoff. Then we have Ben and Sarah Kipling; Ben is a “guy from the Street” who is nursing some money woes and wants David’s ear. And there’s the painter, Scott Burroughs, who was invited at the last minute by Rachel. Scott has been down on his luck and is in need of a big break.

Theories are tossed around about the crash, with many of them totally plausible. Terrorism? Flight error? Weather? Equipment trouble? Was someone targeted? Each option is explored and weighed. And readers analyze and dismiss them along with the author. Keeping this story at the front of the news is Bill Cunningham, a talking head at David’s network, who is obsessed with finding out what went wrong. What’s driving his interest?

And what about the survivors? What are we to make of them? Scott, the painter, totes JJ, his four-year-old charge, swimming for hours with him on his back to Montauk as he sees him to safety. Well, he gets him to land. From there, they are left to survive the aftermath of the disaster --- the media and a lot of unanswered questions. Being the survivors is not an easy thing. Why you and not someone else? And what does it mean when your entire world is ripped apart?

So many questions and one brisk ride to the answers.

Two things to note. Would I have pared down this book if I was editing it? Yes. Do I love the ending? Hmmmm. That said, I have been thinking about it since I finished it and am eager to talk about it with other readers. 

Before the Fall
by Noah Hawley

  • Publication Date: June 6, 2017
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455561797
  • ISBN-13: 9781455561797