Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley
My rating: 4½ of 5 stars

A private jet goes down in the water somewhere between Martha’s Vineyard and Teterboro Airport. Scott, a painter and recovering alcoholic, is a last-minute addition to the passenger list, invited by Maggie, the wife of the wealthy news network owner whose company leased the jet. In addition to that executive’s family, other souls on board include their two small children, a money manager under investigation for laundering money for North Korea and others, a former Israeli war hero turned security expert, a pilot, co-pilot, and a beautiful flight attendant. Scott and the 4-year-old son survive in the water. Scott, who was also a standout swimmer in high school, must try to save himself and the boy despite a dislocated shoulder. He begins to swim, towing the boy.

The beginning of this book is riveting. Scott survives, that much we can predict from the opening, but who else does? Why did the plane go down? Weather was fine other than a low fog. The pilots were experienced and the plane had a good safety and maintenance record. We meet Gus, an investigator from the NTSB, and O’Brien, a jerkwad FBI agent. More bodies are found. Relatives come out of the woodwork. The post-truth news hounds descend.

This thriller borders on being great. The middle begins to drag a bit as the life stories of all the characters are brought out in a touch too much detail. The characters begin to take on cliched depictions. The NTSB guy is sympathetic and professional. The FBI guy is arrogant and suspicious. Cunningham, the cable news anchor, a sort of mix of Larry King, Rush Limbaugh, and Bill O’Reilly, is a lie-mongering viper. As we get closer to learning what actually happened, the pace quickens and suspense builds again. The ending does not come as a surpise since there are plenty of clues leading to it along the way, but it satisfies the hungry reader. Although the book is not perfect, it’s a solid four and half stars. I recommend it for those who enjoy thrillers.

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