The rich are different. But fate is blind. Down-on-his-luck artist Scott Burroughs would usually take the ferry back to New York from Martha’s Vineyard, but he is unexpectedly offered a spare seat on the Bateman family’s private jet. Then just minutes after take-off, the plane crashes into the ocean and of the eight passengers and three crew, only Scott and the Batemans’ small son, JJ, are left alive. The extraordinary nature of their survival, combined with the fact that David Bateman was CEO of a populist TV news channel, means that Scott will not be returning to anonymity. Along with the orphaned boy, he is engulfed by a maelstrom of speculation, which soon overtakes the official investigation into the tragedy. Who else was on the plane? Was there a bomb, a missile? Who is Scott Burroughs? As the chapters drive towards their heart-stopping conclusion, weaving with ever-increasing suspense between the shocking aftermath of the crash and the intimate backstory of each of the passengers and crew members, Noah Hawley creates a searching, thrilling novel of love, fame, wealth, art, entertainment and power.
When everyone is talking about a book and stating that it’s one of the best thrillers of the year, the fangirl inside me gets incredibly excited. And although it took me a while to get to read Before The Fall, my expectations were as high as ever. The result? I’m afraid I was a bit disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, I do believe this is a good book and the premise was more than intriguing. A private jet that crashes and there are only two survivors. But was it an accident or did something much more sinister happen? Is one of the survivors involved? This is the main idea and I thought it was a great one. I didn’t know what to expect from this book. Would it be a survival story? A thriller? A mystery? Turns out, Before The Fall was all of those things at once.
The first chapters were super engaging and I deeply enjoyed reading about Scott becoming a hero in a matter of hours. He was a great character and I also wanted to know more about the kid and how he would cope with this tragedy. I guess, this time, I was more interested in the aftermath and the consequences of the accident and what it would do to those involved.
There was a part of the book that focused on the investigation and the press and I found it realistic and fitting. It’s a shame how everything works nowadays. Someone does something heroic and he must’ve had his reasons. He’s surely suspicious. He’s probably after the money. He must’ve been sleeping with the mother. I thought the reactions were very sad but they were also a great portrait of our society.
So why didn’t I enjoy this more? Basically, I thought there was a lot of unnecessary information and the book could’ve been much shorter if focused on the main characters. At first, I thought the “before” chapters were a great idea that allowed us to get to know the passengers more in depth. However, after a few pages I was a bit tired of reading about their days prior to the accident, especially when those stories had little to do with the plot itself.
I believe I’m not the only one who thought the ending was a bit bland if you take into account the enormous potential of the story. Maybe it was meant to be this way, I don’t know, but I couldn’t help but feel it could’ve been even better. Based on the raving reviews I’ve read, I guess this was just not the right book for me, even though I did like it.
P.S I’m a big fan of Fargo and The Unusuals is one of the shows I still complain about being canceled way too early. So it clearly isn’t you, Noah Hawley. It’s just this book.
Hodder, 2016 – Copy from publishers