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Before the Fall Hardcover – May 31, 2016
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"BEFORE THE FALL is a ravishing and riveting beauty of a thriller. It's also a deep exploration of desire, betrayal, creation, family, fate, mortality, and rebirth. It's one part Dennis Lehane, one part Dostoevsky. I was spellbound from first page to last; I haven't fully recovered yet."―Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours
"Noah Hawley really knows how to keep a reader turning the pages, but there's more to the novel than suspense. On one hand, BEFORE THE FALL is a complex, compulsively readable thrill ride of a novel. On the other hand, it is an exploration of the human condition, a meditation on the vagaries of human nature, the dark side of celebrity, the nature of art, the power of hope and the danger of an unchecked media. The combination is a potent, gritty thriller that exposes the high cost of news as entertainment and the randomness of fate."―Kristin Hannah, New York Times Book Review
"[A] terrific thriller...an irresistible mystery.. a tale that's both an intriguing puzzle and a painful story of human loss."―Patrick Anderson, Washington Post
"Imagine that Agatha Christie had set a closed-room mystery on an airplane and included Wall Street and entertainment executive types in her lineup of suspects. Now imagine that airplane crashing into the Atlantic before the story even gets going....Mr. Hawley, the expert TV showrunner, obviously had the skills to pull this off."―New York Times, "The Top Books of 2016"
"I started and finished BEFORE THE FALL in one day. That begins to tell you what kind of smart, compellingly dramatic read it is.
So read it."―James Patterson, #1 New York Times bestselling author and winner of the National Book Foundation's 2015 Literarian Award
"A masterly blend of mystery, suspense, tragedy, and shameful media hype...a gritty tale of a man overwhelmed by unwelcome notoriety, with a stunning, thoroughly satisfying conclusion."―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A pulse-pounding story, grounded in humanity."―Booklist (starred review)
"BEFORE THE FALL is an astonishing, character-driven tour-de-force. The story is a multi-layered, immersive examination of truth, relationships, and our unquenchable thirst for the media's immediate explanation of unfathomable tragedy."―Karin Slaughter, #1 internationally bestselling author
"Savvy and absorbing... cathartic...BEFORE THE FALLis about the gulf that separates perception and truth, and the people who fall into it."―Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
"BEFORE THE FALL kicks ass. A surefire summer read."
―Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage and City of Mirrors
"Like the successful screenwriter that he is, Hawley piles on enough intrigues and plot complications to keep you hooked."―Kirkus Reviews
"This isn't just a good novel; it's a great one. I trusted no one in these pages, yet somehow cared about them all. BEFORE THE FALL brings a serrated edge to every character, every insight, and every wicked twist."―Brad Meltzer, bestselling author of The President's Shadow
"Noah Hawley soon veers his highly entertaining novel into an insightful look at families, revenge and media intrusion...Hawley invests the same care with a soupcon of dark humor into BEFORE THE FALL as he does on the TV series 'Fargo'...superb and cleverly constructed."―Associated Press
"A riveting beach read."―People, "The Best New Books"
"[A] page-turner."―Vanity Fair
"A remarkable and memorable accomplishment by any standard...BEFORE THE FALL is brilliantly constructed and wonderfully told.... a tale that will haunt you long after you read the last page, even as you wish the narrative was twice as long, for all the right reasons."―Book Reporter
"Essential reading this summer for anyone who likes a good story well told...You won't read a more thoughtful page-turner anytime soon...irresistibly cinematic."―St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Remarkably fun to read, filled with suspense, memorable characters and incredibly visual scenes...a compulsive experience."―Austin American-Statesman
"Compulsively written and involving, BEFORE THE FALL is a stunning inquiry into human drive and desire...A powerful and genuinely surprising work."―The Saturday Star
"Abundant chills and thrills...Noah Hawley's novel grabs you by the throat and won't let go...BEFORE THE FALL is storytelling at its best, as Hawley presents a range of diverse characters with rich histories... Seeds of doubt are cast in what is sure to be the summer book you won't want to miss."―The Missourian
"In the hands of a writer like Noah Hawley, who knows how to build tension from mundane moments, it is a remarkable thriller that most readers will find difficult to put down...it moves toward a breathless ending."―The Washington Times
"A complex exploration of human nature in an age of celebrity."―Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Won [our] hearts and minds...it will be the big talker of the summer."―New York Post, "Summer's Hottest Reads"
"[The] thriller of the summer."―The Baltimore Sun
"The crash and the flashbacks recall Lost and Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer-winning novel, The Bridge Over San Luis Rey, and Scott's travails are the lot of every hero in a conspiratorial thriller going back to The 39 Steps."―Slate
"BEFORE THE FALL will seize you on the first page and never let you go, as you follow the story of a plane crash and the complicated and confusing investigation about why it happened."―Vanity Fair, "The 5 Must-Read Books for the Last Five Weeks of Summer"
"Fast-paced, mysterious...reads like a great episode of TV."―The Tennessean
"A riveting summer read...the author manages to draw out beauty from the heartbreak embodied within the characters. BEFORE THE FALL poses ubiquitous questions about existence, while maintaining a fast-paced, fascinating, and ultimately life-affirming plot."―Woodbury Magazine
"A captivating study of human nature."―New Orleans Advocate
"[An] intelligent and majestically paced story... Hawley has provided his fans with the ultimate irony: a best-seller that is also a Marxist critique."―Dallas Morning News
"A taut and expertly paced suspense novel. Hawley's fifth book delivers in so many ways: a cast of well-drawn characters, feints, red herrings and dogged investigators who eventually uncover the truth...this one keeps readers guessing until the final, tragic unveiling....in nerve-racking and poignant detail."―RealClearBooks, "This Summer's Best Thriller"
"A thoughtful and compelling page-turner....Hawley's writing is taut and clear, his characters richly developed...Readers may be moved to stand up and cheer."―New York Journal of Books
"Excellent premise and clever plotting."―Florida Times-Union
"A literary suspense novel with both a brain and a heart, Before the Fall is a searing examination of the nature of truth. With masterful character development and a well-sculpted plot line, Hawley takes us on a thrill ride of a story while raising vital questions about the role and responsibility of the media today."―Powells, "1 of 10 books sent to President Elect Trump"
"A big-brained why-, how-, and whodunit."―GQ
"This fast-paced suspense novel by the creator of Fargo will keep you on the edge of your seat."―People
"Brimming with three-dimensional characters, BEFORE THE FALL leads the reader down rabbit hole after rabbit hole in an electrifying mystery."―PasteMagazine.com, "Best Novels of 2016"
"Noah Hawley's BEFORE THE FALL isn't a typical mystery. Perhaps that's why I couldn't put it down."―TheAtlantic.com
"Mystery, conspiracy and a plane crash on a foggy night...juicy."―Parade Magazine
"A read-in-one-beach-day kind of book...A true page-turner, BEFORE THE FALL will leave you guessing until the final moments of the crash, and the final pages of the book."―Bustle
"The story's utterly engrossing plot that twists between past and present, ultimately heightening the mystery and suspense, is practically made for the big screen."―Domino Magazine
"The best mystery I have read this year...extremely intense...a page turner...a carefully crafted character study...[that] delivers far more than a plot driven thriller. We get an insight into the workings of the minds of all the characters, and indeed, the workings of Noah Hawley's mind as well."―Cyberlibrarian
"[A] soapy, scary, ripped-from-the-headlines story...The answers are ultimately satisfying and heartbreaking."―The Plain Dealer Online
- Publisher : Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (May 31, 2016)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 400 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1455561789
- ISBN-13 : 978-1455561780
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.25 x 9.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #322,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from the United States
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Just as the plane falls from the sky, this story falls from grace when the author finds himself unable to resist launching a broad, ham-fisted swipe at Fox News. Fox News and its ascendence to the top of the ratings has time and again brought out the worst in the liberal progressive intelligentsia, and Mr. Hawley proves he too suffers from FDS, Fox News derangement syndrome.
The syndrome manifests itself in a number of ways in Before The Fall. The thinly veiled ALC News a stand in for Fox News channel. Shock news host Bill Cunningham an every more thinly veiled stand in for Bill O'Reilly. The author even went so far as to name Cunningham's attorney "Franken," a taunt at the long-running feud between O'Reilly and the one time SNL comedian Al Franken.
In Hawley's story, the Cunningham character is painted as an egotistical, manipulative and even dangerous buffoon, engaging in all manner of ethically corrupt and even illegal behavior to get at the TV host's version of the truth. Every liberal prejudice about Fox News and every tired myth the FDS afflicted suffer from comes rushing forth. There have been great novels in our time that have dealt with our celebrity media culture. Tom Wolfe's Bonfire Of The Vanities comes to mind. Where Wolfe paints with deft, satirical embellishments, Hawley slashes in crude cartoonish strokes.
It's sad, really, because Mr. Hawley is clearly a writer of the first rank. The Fox News angle and the O'Reilly component came off as petty and mean-spirited. As if the writer has a score to settle. But that's what Fox News success does to liberal elites. They simply can't help themselves.
The premise is great. It could have taken off like a rocket and kept you in thrall with such a good story idea. But it doesn't. I kept waiting to be psyched, page-turning like mad, but unfortunately, I found this way underwhelming and several chapters in began to wish I hadn't wasted my time to start with. The cliches, the dull descriptions, the lack of character development on any truly intimate, deeper level - not there. I've always read books for the interesting writing as much as the story. This one lacks both. Something tells me that because this writer is associated with "Fargo," he got green lights and nobody of any real taste in publishing read his book. They just figured "Fargo" was good, so this must be. NOT! Being a great novelist is a whole other bag than a good screenwriter. If you love good writing - or even a good yarn - don't waste your time.
The story: a rich family summering on Martha’s Vineyard charters a private jet to fly them to Teterboro. They are accompanied by a member of their security detail and they invite another rich couple and an artist with business to conduct in Manhattan to join them. The artist is poor compared with the mega-rich others. The plane crashes and the artist (Scott Burroughs) survives, along with the 4 year-old son of the charterers. Scott swims to Montauk in the dark in what may be shark-infested waters and saves the little boy, JJ. The novel then principally consists of the back stories of the people who drowned and about 40% of the way into the novel we begin to realize that the crash may not have been an accident. The other rich invitee aboard the plane was about to be arrested for money laundering. The charterer runs a conservative television network and may have been targeted for political reasons. His head of security is an Israeli with a complex, bloody past. The co-pilot has had some sort of relationship difficulty with the flight attendant, and so on. Hence the mystery elements—what really happened? Why did the plane crash? And the thriller element—if this was a revenge or terrorist (or some other form of) plot and the son and painter survived, perhaps they will be targeted again (except that there is no plausible reason to expect so, since the painter was invited aboard at the last minute and no long-term planner would have been expecting him to be there).
There are several related plots. JJ’s aunt, who will serve as his parent now, is married to a troubled, addled writer/cook; they disagree on the uses of the considerable inheritance that the aunt will manage. The charterer’s television network includes one host who has stepped over the line and wiretapped prominent individuals. While he draws huge ratings he is a loose cannon. (Perhaps he engineered the crash, since the network chief was leaning on him?) Toward the end of the book the aunt’s husband agrees to go on the loose cannon’s show, with possible fireworks to follow. Interestingly, the loose cannon’s name is Bill Cunningham; one wonders if the conservative Cincinnati talk show host, Bill Cunningham, is offended by this.
The writing is wonderful and the book examines the psychological and philosophic aspects of all of these actions, results and circumstances in depth. The artist, e.g., has recently produced some large paintings of individuals caught in unanticipated scenes of destruction. One, for example, is a portrait of a woman on a farm who does not see the tornado in the background which is coming for her. This all sparks the interests of the FBI, but the painter himself is much more fixated on the meaning of life and the manner in which violence intrudes, unexpectedly. He broods about such things, even as a mega-rich gallery owner/heiress attempts to charm him sexually. The aunt broods over questions of justice and whether or not all of the inheritance should be preserved for JJ, while she and her husband continue to live austerely.
Bottom line: the entire ‘feel’ of the book is philosophic and the mystery/suspense elements are secondary or even tertiary. The book seizes your attention and will take you into the late hours, reading, but prospective readers should be aware that this is not a conventional mystery story. It is, however, a very fine novel.
P.S. For admirers of the author’s wonderful series, FARGO, this book has nothing in common with the series, neither in the nature of the characters, plots and themes, nor in the narrative ‘ethos’.
Top reviews from other countries
After a private plane crashes, the truth of what happened on board is eked out in fragments; clues and red herrings buried in exquisitely-rendered life stories of the passengers on board. The result, despite the way the novel has been marketed, is not a thriller (and the whodunnit may leave readers frustrated). Instead, it's the best kind of drama; rich and emotional, with raw human stories that propell the narrative onward.
Like others, I found the story easy to read and I was particularly taken with the suspenseful opening chapters. It was an intriguing tale, though not the thriller I'd expected it to be. I did enjoy reading about the back stories of the different characters though and it was interesting to read about the course their individual lives had taken leading up to the crash.
Within the story, Noah Hawley explores the media's (and the public's) obsession with certain news stories. The author makes some bang on observations regarding how 'news' is now broadcast and how the media, in many respects, actually makes and controls the news they are feeding to us - often proclaiming that the public has a right to know all the details. Although I had guessed the reason for the crash way before the 'reveal,' I did nevertheless enjoy the style of writing, and did find myself highlighting a number of passages throughout. Not quite worthy of five stars but I would still be tempted to read further works by this author.
[SPOILER WARNING from hereon] Its strong points are that it's a genuine page-turner, as the central mystery of what led to the crash is very gradually revealed. It also taps into some key elements of general interest for its likely audience - the emergence of the super-wealthy class, the politicisation of 24 hour news channels, and the perils and problems of middle age. While these are enough to keep the reader engaged, the novel sadly doesn't have anything very interesting to say, as by the time we reach the rather lacklustre ending, it's clear that the main rightwing character in the story is a monster, that the Fox-type channel is wrong on all counts, and that our hero, despite all his grizzled flaws, really is as much of a hero as the protagonist of any other airport thriller. Mr Hawley chooses some very easy targets, and doesn't let any of them surprise us.
Hawley's success in other fields might have got him the good editor he needed, or it might have exempted him from editing. Sadly it feels like the latter was what happened. The attempts to alternate perspective are jarring, with some characters unable to support the weight of their allotted chapter of individual focus - the Israeli bodyguard is especially underdeveloped. Although the book is in part an attack on sexist attitudes, the female roles in the likely movie will not be particularly interesting or challenging. Brief shifts into historical detail (Jack Lalanne and the Montauk monster) are bluntly inserted into the narrative. The prose style is efficient enough for plot development, but not subtle enough to develop some of the deeper themes that are attempted. Finally, a book analysing the impact of the news media on modern life is remarkably uncurious and unreflective about how the scenario it sets up would play out in reality: the lead character, having survived an incident that would be on all national media, is extraordinary not only in his skill at avoiding the media, but also in avoiding almost anyone (except the implausibly helpful crash investigator) giving him any sensible advice at any point about how to deal with that until the last few pages of the book. No local mayor or politician or colleague of the deceased executive takes the chance, which they would surely seize on, to be his friend or offer advice. And yet, for all his naivete, and unsuitedness, when he does finally decide to take on the power of the media - well, yes, you guessed it.
There were two potentially interesting books here - the most prominent a pacy contemporary thriller with a touch of satire, the second a more reflective exploration of the values of the baby boomers and in particular of the connections between wealth, state power and news. What we have is an early draft which should have become one or the other, but sits awkwardly between the two. Nonetheless there is enough skill in the telling, and in particular in the plotting, to ensure most readers make it to the finish.
Instead, I got a rather thin plot, a lot of inconsequential background, and an ending which simply would not have been allowed to happen.
It's an easy read - it'll only take a couple of hours. Unfortunately I can't honestly say that would be time well spent.
Noah Hawley has managed to produce an exquisite story that is made up of several layers and with a twists. The characters are "alive" and I found myself routing for 1 or 2 and really disliking quite a few of the characters. To the point where I felt genuine resentment towards them as if they were real people. It takes an incredible writer and an ingenious story to provoke such strong feelings towards an imaginary figure!
I sincerely hope that this novel is turned into a film or tv show as it has such depth and originality that it deserves to be picked up and produced for the big screen. I will certainly be reading much more from N. Hawley!