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Before the Fall Hardcover – May 31, 2016
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New York Times Bestseller From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics' Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes the thriller of the year.
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The chapter that follows this terrible crash is one of the most exciting and well written I've read. Scott's disorientation is palpable as he comes to consciousness. The sea is dark, the sky is foggy, no stars can be seen to guide him. And then the whimpering cries of the boy reach his ears. I'm not giving anything away to say that they survived. But why should the plane have crashed? Many authorities believe it to be sabotage. One of the other passengers was about to be indicted for some big financial crime. Speculation runs wild amount the investigation agencies and the press.
We get short chapters defining the personal histories of all the passengers and crew on board. Okay, fine. This device isn't new and usually serves to let the reader have some investment in the outcome. As I stated, the "escape" from the sea was a thrilling bit of writing. The supporting players bios began to get a little tedious as the info was parceled out sparingly. I was losing interest in the outcome at about 70% but stuck with it anyway.
And then, what happened? Suddenly we're at the end and rather than giving the reader a unique and original ending, the author wrapped up the mystery with something ripped right from the headlines. I felt cheated, duped, in fact. So you may want to wait for the price to drop before committing to purchase this book. I will say that the writing is fine but it seems to me that the author merely tacked on an easy ending that took no thought at all.
This is one of those books that, early on, I thought I was going to hate. As I got into the story, I got into the story.
Hawley uses a sometimes maddening "one step forward, two steps backward" time frame which, having introduced the characters in the beginning, uses the entire book to flesh them out. Unfortunately, we're told very little about the one character we really need to know about. Members of my book club agreed that because of flawed character development the resolution of this story felt like a punt.
The author uses an even more maddening, scrambled-eggs approach to tense. There is no rhyme or reason for his tense shifts, especially his frequent multiple shifts within the same paragraph. If these shifts were trackable, if they formed a pattern, they could be justified according to literary need. But there is no pattern, just a melange of tenses repeatedly begging the question, "What day and time is it in this part of the story?"
Having said that, I will say I enjoyed the book. A lot. Per above, I'm not wild about Hawley's writing style, but he's a terrific story-teller.
Caveat: Women have no real function in the story except in their relationships to men, and every woman is described according to her looks and sexuality. Only two women have jobs -- one as a 'flight attendant' who gets propositioned a lot, and the other a former pre-school teacher who gladly gave up her job to get married. Puh-lease. And, many of the men are hard-swearing, shoulder-swaggering, locker-room talking characters who would've been admired 50 years ago but are now just silly. The sexism in this book is distracting, to say the least.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading it. My book club enjoyed talking about it. I can recommend it.
I am a big fan of the author's "Fargo" TV series, so I was sold on this book before reading a Patrick Anderson review in the Washington Post. A quick glance at the Amazon page for the book will reveal that early on there is a crash of a private jet with eleven on board and most are killed. The plane was heading from Martha's Vineyard to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey near Manhattan and 'falls' into the sea. Now the investigation begins to determine what happened and who is responsible. Hawley's story telling skills are excellent and in this book he interweaves investigation chapters with chapters on each of the people on board. Hard to put down.
As the end approaches, two climaxes, each on a separate track, are building. It has a satisfying ending and lots of interesting characters and I hope to see another from Hawley soon. However, "Before the Fall" is not without its flaws. I really doubt that anyone could have survived the crash. Secondly, the responsible party's actions are just too much of a stretch for me. And finally, a 26 year old, attractive billionaires, naked, slips into bed with a middle aged guy who hasn't had sex in five years, and you're never going to believe what happens next, perhaps the most incredible scene of all. So put it all together and it spells four star, but a good fun read.