Title: After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Blood stains the carpet of an empty house. A front door slams behind a mother with a suitcase full of secrets. Someone screams. A plane falls out of the sky.
Cecilia made the hardest decision of her life moments before she stepped onto the plane that would bring her world crashing down. Her marriage was failing before even getting off the ground, and her desperate need to start over has driven her to abandon her family. Now, as her plane plummets toward the ground, she wishes she had given her son one last kiss good-bye. As tragedy meets mystery, Cecilia and three others, each struggling with their own secrets, become connected on one fateful night when lives are lost in the sky and on the ground.
After We Fall by Emma Kavanagh is an absolutely riveting mystery that takes place in the aftermath of a tragic plane crash. The story unfolds from four different points of view and while some of their connections are obvious, others do not become clear until closer to the novel’s end.
The opening chapter is written from Cecilia Williams perspective. She is a flight attendant on the plane that crashes and she is married to Tom Allison, a police detective. The day of the flight, she has decided to leave Tom and their young son Ben, and as one of the thirteen survivors, she is struggling to understand why her life was spared. Cecilia finds it easier to connect with and comfort strangers than she does her husband or son. She is very traumatized by an incident from her past and she holds Tom and Ben at both an emotional and physical distance. After the plane crash, Cecilia discovers she can no longer keep her painful memories at bay but surprisingly, one of the other survivors helps her find a new outlook on her life.
Tom is truly a wonderful man and excellent father. Although his relationship with Cecilia had already run its course, when she discovered she was pregnant, there was never any doubt he would marry her. While she has held herself back from their son, Tom eagerly picked up the slack and he is an extremely devoted, hands on dad. Immediately after the plane crash, he is torn between his duties as a police detective and being there for Cecilia, but at her insistence, he continues working on the investigation of a murdered fellow officer, Libby Hanover.
Tom quickly crosses paths with retired police superintendent Jim Hanover. Jim is also Libby’s father and he grew concerned for his daughter when she failed to show up for work. He reported her missing after discovering blood at her home and his worst fears soon came to fruition when her lifeless body is discovered. Although he is deeply grieving Libby’s loss, Jim refuses to let the investigators treat him with kid gloves and he insists that Tom be completely honest about what their investigation uncovers.
The last perspective is from Freya Blake, the daughter of one of the people who died in the crash. Since her father was not exactly devoted to his family, she is more concerned with helping her mother and younger brother Richard deal with their grief than her own. Freya has no illusions about her father and she is soon trying to learn as much as she can about his life in the days leading up the crash.
After We Fall is a very intriguing, character driven novel. Emma Kavanagh seamlessly blends past and present into a compelling story that is impossible to put down. The mystery element of the storyline is superbly written and it is quite fascinating seeing the various story arcs come together. The characters are brilliantly developed and although each of them is flawed in some way, they are sympathetic and for the most part, likable. The atmosphere of the story is a little bleak, but the ending is surprisingly upbeat and hopeful. An excellent debut novel that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a good mystery.