Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Review (2017 Edgar Nominee): Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall

Author: Noah Hawley
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date of Publication: May 31,2016
Pages: 400

     OK, thriller and mystery fans, this is the real deal.  Nominated for the 2017 Edgar Award for best mystery novel, Noah Hawley has crafted a book which keeps the reader turning pages all of the way to the end.  The set-up is fantastic:  Eleven people board a private charter plane leaving Martha's Vineyard for New York.  Sixteen minutes later the plane crashes into the Atlantic without explanation.  There were two survivors: a middle aged alcoholic artist and a small child.  

     The author expertly alternates chapters giving the backstories of each of the people on the plane with chapters telling the story of the search for the missing plane and investigation into the crash.  The backstories of the passengers are excellent character sketches.  In addition to the artist, there is an investment banker about to be indicted for laundering monies from countries such as Iran and North Korea.  There is a right wing media mogul who has created many enemies with his attack style journalism as well as his wife and two young children.  There is a former Israeli operative who is a hired security guard for the media mogul.  The crew includes a career pilot with an unblemished record, a playboy co-pilot who is the nephew of an influential U.S. Senator and a hostess who may be involved with the co-pilot.

     There are motives for the murder of most of the passengers and crew.  Until the downed plane is found there are multiple conspiracy theories as to who may have caused the crash;  or was the crash a mechanical failure or pilot error?  The media fans the flames of conspiracy and tarnishes the  reputations of all involved.  The artist/painter who survived becomes suspect number one (at least in the media) when it is discovered that his most recent paintings all depict tragic disasters: train wrecks, natural disasters and, yes, plane crashes.

     The author deftly brings all of these multiple story threads to a satisfying and surprising conclusion.  Noah Hawley is also a noted screenwriter and producer of hit TV shows such as "Fargo".  He has won an Emmy, a Peabody and a Golden Globe award in his career.  He has a gift for creating tension and suspense which moves the book along rapidly.  He has taken an intricate story with multiple moving parts (eleven people on the plane!) and woven a very intriguing story.  

     This is a great one and I recommend it highly!

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