Thank you NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for providing an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: May 31, 2016
Synopsis: On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are Scott Burroughs–the painter–and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the crash and the backstories of the passengers and crew members–including a Wall Street titan and his wife, a Texan-born party boy just in from London, a young woman questioning her path in life, and a career pilot–the mystery surrounding the tragedy heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy. Was it merely by dumb chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something far more sinister at work? Events soon threaten to spiral out of control in an escalating storm of media outrage and accusations. And while Scott struggles to cope with fame that borders on notoriety, the authorities scramble to salvage the truth from the wreckage.
Before the Fall has an intriguing and timely premise, especially given the tragedy of EgyptAir Flight 804 and the mystery surrounding what brought it down. It’s not only the story of what happens to the two survivors but it also reflects on the lives of those who did not. Each character has their own backstory related that catches the reader up until shortly before the mysterious events that lead to the crash. You don’t actually discover what happened until the last few chapters. Reading it is a bit like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. You don’t see the whole picture until all those pieces are fitted together. While in some respects it makes for an interesting story, I was never able to really connect with any of the characters because of the format. I was fascinated by Scott, and I wish the author had focused more on his character and how he was dealing with his sudden fame, instead of getting bogged down with looking at all the other characters’ lives before the crash. It’s almost as if Noah Hawley wasn’t sure what the main theme of the book was supposed to be about. Is it a discourse on the fragility of life? Is it a look at how we and the media like to build our heroes up, only to tear them down? Is it a cautionary tale at how much influence and power the media holds over society? For me, the story never quite makes up its mind on what it’s about, and because of that I found myself struggling at times. Before the Fall is being hyped as “the thriller of the year” which I think is a bit of an overstatement. I found it to be an okay mystery, but it’s not going on my list of unforgettable thrillers. That said, it’s receiving plenty of rave reviews, so if you like the tv series Fargo (of which Hawley is the executive producer, and writer for), I definitely encourage you to try this. It kept my attention enough that I know I’ll be checking out future books by Hawley.