Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Title: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the Emmy, PEN, Peabody, Critics’ Choice, and Golden Globe Award-winning creator of the TV show Fargo comes the thriller of the year.

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.


Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is an intriguing mystery about the investigation into the cause of a private airplane crash that killed nine of eleven passengers on board.

The passengers on board the luxury plane bound for New York are network head David Bateman, his wife Maggie, their two children Rachel and JJ, their bodyguard Gil Baruch, Wall Street financier Ben Kipling and his wife Sarah, and struggling painter Scott Burroughs.  The crew include pilot James Melody, co-pilot Charlie Busch and flight attendant Emma Lightner.  Nothing seems out of the ordinary with the flight until sixteen minutes after takeoff, the plane inexplicably crashes into the ocean.  Scott and four year old JJ are the only survivors and after an arduous night of swimming, Scott and JJ arrive safely on the New York shore only to wind up smack dab in the middle of an intense investigation and media frenzy.

Although Scott is immediately hailed as a hero, he is also at the center of the investigation and media speculation.  Why was a recovering alcoholic and moderately successful painter on the plane in the first place?  What was his relationship with Maggie Bateman?   What is his connection to Ben and Sarah? What does Scott know about Ben’s business dealings?  Why, of all the passengers on the plane, is he the lone adult survivor?  NTSB investigator Gus Franklin gives Scott the benefit of the doubt and he treats Scott with respect and care.  The same cannot be said for FBI Agent O’Brien whose antagonistic approach angers Gus and befuddles Scott.

News anchor Bill Cunningham deliberately stirs up the public with his rabid (and often baseless) speculation and he utilizes questionable (and illegal) tactics in hopes of getting information for his news reports.  Like much of today’s news reporting, Bill is pursuing his own agenda and he blatantly skews facts to fit his increasingly bizarre theories.  Scott is genuinely bewildered by some of Bill’s questions and he goes to great lengths to avoid the limelight.

The investigation into the cause of the crash is rather straight forward but plagued by interagency fighting since they each have their own theory about what happened.  Although there is little evidence to back up some of the conjecture, other assumptions are credible.  However the novel quickly gets bogged down in chapters about the passengers and crew and while they contain nuggets of valuable information, these points are often lost in these extraneous, meandering passages. Equally frustrating are Bill’s wild accusations and vitriolic newscasts that are nothing but pure speculation.  Although Scott is a genuinely likable person who is caught up in extraordinary circumstances, he comes across as incredibly naive and rather clueless during his interactions with Bill and Agent O’Brien.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley is a perplexing mystery that is impossible to solve.  Despite the somewhat slowing pacing overall, once the pieces of the puzzle begin to fall into place, the novel thunders to a dramatic and completely unexpected conclusion.  All in all, an interesting mystery with a unique storyline that fans of the genre will enjoy.

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1 Comment

Filed under Before the Fall, Contemporary, Grand Central Publishing, Mystery, Noah Hawley, Rated C, Review, Suspense

One Response to Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

  1. Timitra

    I’m intrigued by the impossible to solve mystery…thanks for sharing your thoughts Kathy