by Noah Hawley
New York Times Bestseller
From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics' Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes ...
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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.
Amid pulse-quickening suspense, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.
when you read other reviews, people either liked it or not. I think a good beach read and I did find it hard to put down. Kind of ended abruptly I thought. but still worth the read.
Before the Fall, Noah Hawley, author, Robert Petkoff, narrator
The book begins with a very traumatic event. A private plane crashes into the ocean with only two survivors. One is a middle aged artist, Scott Burroughs, who paints disasters like the one that he has just been involved in, and the other is JJ, a 4 year old child rescued by him, against all odds, since he had to swim with a severely injured shoulder for miles with the child on his back. Burroughs was inspired to become a swimmer, when he was just 6 years old, when he watched Jack LaLanne swim from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf, pulling a boat along with him. JJ was the son of the big news executive with the private plane, David Bateman, President of a right-leaning cable news station called ALC NEWS. Their story alone would have made an interesting novel, but when you add to that, the mystery of why the plane went into the ocean en route to Manhattan from Martha’s Vineyard, the playground of the rich, just minutes from its destination, you have an even more compelling book.
This private plane was ferrying the Batemans, David, Maggie, Rachel and JJ, back to their townhouse in Manhattan from their home in Martha’s Vineyard. Several others had been invited along to share their flight home. One passenger, Ben Kipling, was a man about to be indicted as a result of an investigation by the SEC. He was on board with his wife Sarah. There was also an Israeli, Gil Baruch, who was the security guard protecting the Bateman family. Then there was James Melody, the pilot, Charlie Busch, the copilot, related to a Texas Senator, and Emma Lightner, the flight attendant. With several high profile passengers on board, a full scale investigation was launched into the possible causes of the crash. Was it terrorism, an assassination attempt on the life of Bateman inspired by conflicts between Liberal and Conservative networks, an effort to silence Kipling about his dealings, after his arrest, pilot error, or something completely different?
The story works backwards and explores the lives of the passengers and their possible motives for bringing down the plane. The investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board is a thorough and polite African-American, Ben Franklin. Working with him is his opposite, O’Brien, an abrupt Special Agent with the FBI. He is arrogant and insulting in his approach, more of a steamroller, often jumping to unfound conclusions and actions rather than someone looking carefully at the facts.
Bill Cunningham, popular “talking head” on ALC NEWS, was portrayed as a man creating the story with insinuations which were nothing more than hearsay and innuendo for his own moment in the spotlight, rather than covering it with the actual facts. He cared nothing about the reputation of those he smeared with his suggestive comments, but sought to create advancement opportunities for himself. FBI Special Agent O’Brien was portrayed as a man who did not think critically, but who was on the rise with a promising future. He was pompous and a bully, simply looking for a scapegoat to hang the crash on so he, too, could further his own career. Ben Kipling was portrayed as a very wealthy man with a compromised moral compass who laundered foreign money illegally. The evil-doers in the book were basically 1-rich capitalists like blueblood lawyer Barney Culpepper and heiress Layla Mueller, along with those accused of making money fraudulently like Ben Kipling, and even Bill Cunningham who commits crimes to secretly obtain information on people, each taking advantage of the system in his/her own way, 2-the conservative media industry led by David Bateman, and 3-the heavy-handed law enforcement officers in the FBI.
As the mystery unravels, the author definitely points a judgmental finger at the news media and law enforcement for the way they rushed to judgment. He also portrayed those with less money than the passengers on the plane in a more sympathetic way, although he also used one character, Doug, the husband of Maggie’s sister, Jenny, as a villain, because of his obvious greed concerning the 100 million dollar inheritance that came along with the guardianship of JJ, rather than exhibiting compassion about the tremendous loss faced by the child. He railed against David Bateman whom he called Maggie’s Republican sugar daddy.
I felt as if Capitalism was a character in the story that was not very admirable. In the same way, the conservative news and law enforcement were also portrayed almost as characters, in a very negative way. Overall, big business, Republicans and the FBI were the villains and those who were the drones, the worker bees, were more positively drawn. They always had back story excuses for their poor behavior, which was not their fault. Instead, their actions were blamed on others, a typical left wing viewpoint which promotes little responsibility for one’s own actions.
The author cleverly used the names of the characters to indicate his own left political leanings by drawing the copilot, named Charlie Busch, (eerily similar to the name of both Presidents Bush), as an abusive womanizer, a misfit with an unhappy childhood, brought up by his wealthy uncle who just happened to be Logan Birch, a long time Texas Senator. Of course, Birch will remind the reader of the name of the John Birch Society, a radical, far right group. Bill, of course will make the reader think of the Conservative cable news commentator, Bill O’Reilly, especially when they hear his boss was called Roger, as in the allusion to Roger Ailes, recently accused of sexual harassment. There are other coincidences the reader will discover like the similarities in the kidnapping of baby Rachel Bateman with the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. One will also remember that Rupert Murdoch, owner of Fox, was involved in a cover-up of a wiretapping scandal in England, the same kind of wiretapping that Bill Cunningham conducted. The Kiplings potential future in-laws were Republicans with a child with Down Syndrome, reminding the reader about the abortion issue.
I found the message a bit one-sided since it was based on the conservative cable news station which appeared to be exercising manipulative and dishonest approaches to the news.
Those characters who wanted money were evil; those who wanted organic markets and less out of life were saints. It seemed to me that Hawley has taken bits and pieces of real life and married them to the fictional portion of the novel to present his personal, political views along with the story. Many of the characters who lacked a moral compass and were governed by personal greed would easily be identifiable with the political right, while those who were kinder and gentler were easily placed on the political left.
Was the crash planned or was it the result of a mechanical or pilot error? Was it an accident or a deliberate act of murder? The author was able to cover the plane crash from each passenger’s perspective without really being very repetitive. The details of the investigation were thorough and realistic. The analysis of the disaster paintings were almost lyrical and were definitely thought provoking. The story about Jack LaLanne was very interesting and his message was inspiring. Absent the obviously biased political message, the book would have been a bit better, in my eyes. Still, it was a good read about the fragility of life.
The narrator was, as always, excellent. He captures the personality of each of the characters individually, making them real.
Well that was certainly a crash and burn read -- but in a positive way. A private jet takes off carrying a pilot, co-pilot, flight attendant, a multi-millionaire with his wife, two small children and their bodyguard, another millionaire (who is unknown to anyone is about to be indicted for money laundering) and his wife and a want-to-be artist who crates human disaster paintings. Approximately 16 minutes into the flight it crashes into the water and burns. Two survivors. Seems simple enough until you start delving into the lives, patterns and mental state of each person on board. They all seemed relatively normal before the fall -- but after is when things start to unravel.
This was a very engrossing story that I couldn't put down. A birds-eye view of each passenger in the following chapters reveals that everything isn't always as it seems. It opened up many cans of worms that shed some light on human nature, human frailties and human greed. It emphasizes how the power of the press can influence the minds of so many who aren't smart enough to think for themselves or are just too lazy. It screams for justice and begs for compassion.
For some life is snubbed out because of the fall. Others learn they weren't truly living Before the Fall.
All the reviews I have read of BEFORE THE FALL have praised it, some going so far as to say that it’s the best mystery/thriller of 2016. Believe it.
BEFORE THE FALL is the best mystery/thriller in recent years. No kidding. GONE GIRL and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, the 2015 books that so many other mysteries/thrillers since then have been compared to, don’t hold a candle to BEFORE THE FALL. That is, BEFORE THE FALL is much better than those earlier books, much more literate and unputdownable at the same time.
A reviewer on bookreporter.com, although she named this book a “Bets On Pick,” said that if she had edited BEFORE THE FALL, she would have cut more. I disagree. I didn’t want the book to end, so the more the author, Noah Hawley, told me about the characters, the better.
Simply put, the story begins with a plane crash into the ocean. There are two survivors. BEFORE THE FALL examines the backgrounds of each passenger and crew member. It also shows the experiences of the survivors after the fall. The mystery throughout: why did the plane crash and was someone responsible?
NOTE: One of the passengers on that ill-fated plane was a top executive at a 24-hour cable TV news station that is obviously meant to be Fox News, although the fictional TV station, per policy, makes (rather than just reports) news. And one of the news show hosts, who ”reports” recorded (bugged) telephone conversations of one of the survivors, is NOT, I’m sure, meant to be Bill O’Reilly.
'Death was not an intellectual conceit. It was an existential black hole, an animal riddle, both problem and solution, and the grief it inspired could not be fixed or bypassed like a faulty relay, but only endured.'
What an outstanding piece of fiction, this reached far beyond the summer’s must read thriller field, call me impressed. It has been well reviewed, but what I found most compelling was the way it addresses the randomness of events and the full human import of their aftermath.
A plane crash is not simply the total of time line + mechanical elements + human elements. It is an incalculable tragedy, one that shows us the ultimate finiteness of human control over the universe and the humbling power of collective death.'
As you might note from these passages, the writing far exceeds the norm for the genre and provides a depth that gave me far more to think about than plot and characterization, though they are well done too. It’s quite powerful when an author can provide us a gripping tale while also pondering the significance of our lives.
Beach read with a twist; interesting plot based on a private jet crash with survivors
Great discussion stemming from the hero angle. Some of us LOVED it some of us were meh.
Our book club enjoyed this book and its exploration of wealth, the media, and art. We all liked the structure of the plot, with the crash coming immediately and then the exploration into each of the characters' lives. Some members thought the ending was a bit blah-but a good read none the less!
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