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Before the Fall Hardcover – May 31, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of June 2016: Noah Hawley’s new novel begins with the crash of a private plane carrying some very influential people on board. The only survivors are the young son of a media mogul and an obscure painter who, given his less than elevated status, seems like a wild card from the start. What happened on that flight? Why did the plane go down and if it was intentional, who was the target? With each chapter of Before the Fall, Hawley peels back another layer of the lives of those onboard that fatal flight meanwhile, the media speculation and accusations in the days after the crash threaten to overwhelm truth and decency. The end is surprising, even a little bit of a “huh.” moment at first, but it’s an ending that sinks in and starts the wheels turning on everything that came before it, which, to me, is the hallmark of an unforgettable story. --Seira Wilson, The Amazon Book Review
"This is one of the year's best suspense novels, a mesmerizing, surprise-jammed mystery that works purely on its own, character-driven terms....Mr. Hawley has made it very, very easy to race through his book in a state of breathless suspense."―Janet Maslin, New York Times
"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 FALL is about the gulf that separates perception and truth, and the people who fall into it."―Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
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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.
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.
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.