Thursday, 6 April 2017

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

review by Maryom

Scott Burroughs is a struggling, almost penniless, artist who doesn't usually mix with the rich crowd that visit Martha's Vineyard over the summer but one day he gets chatting to Maggie Bateman, wife of a TV channel CEO, at the farmer's market. She takes a casual interest in his art and, when he mentions having to return to New York for meetings with galleries and agents, equally casually offers him a lift in the family private jet. What should have been an easy trip turns into a nightmare when, only minutes after take-off, the plane plunges into the sea, and, of the eleven people on board, only Scott and the Bateman's small son, J J, survive.
The media are immediately interested. One of their own doesn't die in such dramatic circumstances without a LOT of coverage, but Scott's heroic swim to shore with J J, and the illegal business dealings of one of the other passengers are also the stuff of headlines and the focus of investigation by the civil aviation authorities, FBI  etc

Starting from the plane's departure, the story moves both back and forwards. In the lead up to the flight, it tells the lives of the passengers and crew on board that evening, while looking for clues to what brought about the crash  - pilot error, technical malfunction or even a bomb aimed at either David Bateman or dodgy financier Ben Kipling. In the aftermath, the reader follows Scott's epic struggle to reach shore, and the unrolling of events as investigators and media begin to shape the story how they see it having happened.
I've not quite sure how I'd define the story - it has mainly similarities with a psychological thriller, but less of the tension. It's more an investigation into human nature, of what drives a person to make the choices they do, and how sometimes life can revolve around coincidence and chance.

I wasn't aware before that Noah Hawley as well as being the creator of Fargo, was also an author, but being a huge fan of the TV series, I was definitely intrigued when I heard about Before the Fall. It doesn't share the casual violence of Fargo but the themes of chance and coincidence are present in both, directing lives without regard to the people involved. It's an interesting read, of the sort you want to flip through as speedily as possible to found out how it ends, but maybe a little on the light side for my tastes.

Maryom's review - 4 stars 
Publisher - Hodder and Stoughton
Genre - Adult

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