Before the Fall
Grand Central Publishing
August 23, 2015. A flight leaves Martha’s Vineyard for Teterboro Airport. On board is David Bateman, founder of A highly successful media company, along with his wife Maggie, and children Rachel and JJ. Also on board are Ben Kipling, an investor who has found himself in hot water over some business deals, as well as his wife Sarah. Also onboard is Scott Burroughs, an unknown artist who is re emerging after spending the last decade in a drunken stupor. Lastly, you have a three man flight crew and Gil Baruch, security for the Bateman family. The flight takes off shorty after 10 PM and disappears a short time later. Nothing is known about the flight until 8 hours later, when two lone survivors finally swim to shore.
Before the Fall was interesting because it was a mystery but it wasn’t necessarily the fast paced thrilled you would expect. The investigation continues for three weeks, with authorities searching for the wreckage to try and make sense of the catastrophe. Meanwhile, the two survivors aren’t able to offer much as to what happened. One was asleep at the time and one was knocked unconscious. There is no way to know if something on the airplane malfunctioned or if there was any type of pilot error without locating the actual plane. Meanwhile, you have David Bateman, whose line of work puts him in the spotlight, and not always in a positive way. Then you have Ben Kipling, who is facing a criminal indictment. There are so many possibilities as to what happened that my mind flew to all of them at one point or another.
The pacing of the book was interesting. At times I felt it wasn’t as effective as it could be. I would say 2/3 of the way through the book, I started to get a little bored. I think it got a little stagnant. They’d been searching and searching and searching and it began to feel a little redundant to me. What was interesting to me was how the author chose to introduce the characters. All of the eleven people on board were given at least a few pages to develop them as characters and go into their backgrounds and history. Hawley was very considerate about when and how it was done for each passenger, with quite a few of the characters not really being discussed until close to the end of the book. I thought that was genius. So although I did find myself slightly bored at one point, I thought the novel was very well crafted and overall, I was invested in the story.
Semi Spoiler** The ending was very abrupt and I am so thankful for that. As I was getting close to the end, I started thinking “Please don’t let the author tie this up with a neat little bow.” I imagined an epilogue where we are given an update on the two survivors, etc. and I really thought it would have been a huge error to do that. I know there are readers that get really fired up over abrupt endings but I am not one of them. I think this one was done well because we finally knew the answer as to why the plane crashed. There were still plenty of loose ends with the characters, but it only caused me to reflect on the book more.
I wouldn’t consider Before the Fall to be a thriller despite that it is a mystery. To me, it read much more like literary fiction with mystery elements interspersed. That may sound odd, and other readers may disagree. That is just how I personally took it. This book has had a lot of hype this year, deservedly so.
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