Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

For some reason, this was a harder one for me to review, so forgive me if it’s a bit more abrupt than my previous posts (ha!). I had extremely high hopes for this book – perhaps too high in hindsight. And while I feel it’s definitely worth a read because the story itself is an interesting one, it didn’t quite hit the “thriller” mark as billed, leaving me to feel oddly bereft after the last page was turned.

Before the Fall begins with the crashing of a private plane, bringing the demise of several very privileged, influential New Yorkers. There were only two survivors: a painter on the verge of his big break named Scott Burroughs, and JJ, a four-year-old boy who is now the sole heir to his family’s media fortune. Considering the status of most on board, there are a multitude of questions that everyone (and especially the media) wants answered: who is Scott and why was he on the plane to begin with? Why did the plane crash in the first place? Was something more sinister afoot? With these questions swirling, the media immediately starts to speculate. And, as is often the case, their speculation quickly swirls into an overzealous mess of a news cycle, complete with wild theories and accusations that have no actual basis in fact.

The book alternates between the hubbub of the aftermath of the crash, and glimpses back to each passenger “before the fall”. These glimpses give us more and more insight into what may (or may not) have happened on the doomed flight. The story started strong, fizzled a smidge somewhere in the middle, and picked back up towards the end. There were several effective red herrings, but there were also bits of the flashback stories that felt unfinished, leaving me to wish I had more info on those particular storylines.

Bottom line, I liked it but I didn’t love it. It was an interesting cautionary tale of why the news should only report facts and not whatever theories happen to feel convenient, but parts of the book felt forced and/or not completely fleshed out. The ending also fell a bit flat for me, part of why it fell shy of the “thriller” classification. Honestly, this may be one of those stories destined to make a stronger movie. Hawley is clearly a great storyteller, and it’s no surprise when you realize that he’s a successful screenwriter. Perhaps he’ll be able to capture on the screen what I missed in the pages.

3 Stars!

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