Wednesday, August 31, 2016

'Before the Fall': Suspenseful enough to make it a page turner

It's been awhile since I posted a book blog.

Just so you know, I've been reading.

Just so you know, the pictures with our new pug puppy, Basil, posing with the books, instead of our cat, Hamlet are coming.

Just so you know, I've read a bunch of good summery books that I think you would love.

As I look over my summer reading stack, the most out of my usual reading zone is 'Before the Fall' by Noah Hawley, so I want to start my summer catch up blogs with that one.  If you haven't heard of Noah Hawley, he's a big deal right now with huge accolades for his writing, executive producing, and show running of FX's Fargo.  'Before the Fall' is his 5th novel, but the first of them that I've read.

I'm not usually a suspense or mystery reader, but a good friend started reading this one and told me that it would pull me in and keep me turning the pages with good writing to boot.  The story opens like a disaster movie would.  A private chartered jet is about to take off from Martha's Vineyard on a foggy night which isn't ideal for flying, but not hazardous enough to question the safety of a short flight.  The reader is introduced to a slew of characters which are hard to keep straight in the first several chapters:

David Bateman - multimillionaire owner of a right wing news network that sounds similar to Fox News (he is the one who chartered the flight)
Maggie Bateman - David's younger, former school teacher wife
Rachel Bateman - Maggie and David's 9 year old daughter who just happened to be kidnapped when she was 2
JJ Bateman - Maggie and David's 4 year old son who is sleeping during take off

Ben Kipling - multimillionaire WallStreet dude who is good friends with David, but who is also facing possible indictment for money laundering
Sarah Kipling - the one dimensional wife of Ben who wants her husband to stop working so much

Gil - the Israeli born bodyguard of the Bateman family who has served them for 7 years since the kidnapping of Rachel

Scott Burroughs - the mysterious passenger invited last minute by Maggie Bateman, a struggling (failed?) artist who might just be getting his big break in NYC when the flight lands

A pilot who seems capable enough with his co-pilot and their strikingly beautiful, expert stewardess

16 minutes after the flight takes off, it crashes into the sea and only two people survive: Scott and JJ.  Even more amazing is that Scott swims hours in the dark with a dislocated shoulder, dragging JJ with him to save both of their lives.  This heroic act brings him into an unwelcome media frenzy that starts with praise and morphs into suspicion and conspiracy theories under the loud mouthed rhetoric of Bateman's Right Wing News Cable mogul, Bill Cunningham who has questionable morals and bends laws to get his version of truth out to his adoring fans.

The novel starts at a breathless pace capturing the tenuous moments after the crash and delirium of Scott and JJ as they desperately try to survive.  Then, the action slows down as Hawley takes readers inside the list of passenger names and gives the sordid details of their lives before the crash making each of the players a potential suspect to explain the reason for the crash.

Was it conspiracy? Was it an act of terrorism? Was there an illicit affair between would be hero, Scott and Maggie?

The backstory chapters are interspersed with chapters delving into the aftermath of the crash which might even be more dangerous than the shark infested waters that Scott Burroughs swam through in the pitch black.

Hawley shows us the ugly side of the media circus and speculation that so many of us are prone to believe after any disaster.  Sometimes random things just happen.  Random people come into our lives.  Random disasters happen even when multimillionaires are involved.

Or do they?

That is the central question of this book, and it takes until the very end for everything to unravel and the truth to be revealed.

I liked it.  I didn't love it.  I thought some parts were brilliant, but others were boring and repetitive.  Overall, though, it was suspenseful enough to make it a page turner. I'd be surprised if this one isn't made into a movie.