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.
Honestly, I had mixed feelings when I received this book to review. I love a good thriller, but this was more mysterious, but the plot summary was enough to grab my attention. Basically, a private plane leaves Martha’s Vineyard carrying two very wealthy and influential families, and one washed up artist gearing up for a second chance. The plane takes off for the 28-minute flight to New York, but after 16 minutes, vanishes. Why, how? And the only survivors are a 4 year old boy and the artist.
The characters are developed slowly, through background chapters that give a little history and the character’s whereabouts during the last week before the ill-fated night. Before the Fall is an odd little thriller, you become engaged in the character’s stories, as you search alongside the authorities for the truth and the black box. The character’s lives offer insight into the plane’s crash, but each one creates a different truth. You will be engrossed trying to sort out the truth of the crash as you side with each of the well-developed and very different characters.
Each of the eleven people on board were given several pages to develop their characters, to divulge their backgrounds and history. Hawley was considerate about when and how each passenger is “introduced,” with several key players being held back until nearly the end of the book.
I found this the novel well-crafted and overall, I was invested in the story and the characters. The end is not as you think, ever, and I love the little twists that unfold as the story and the past unfurl themselves. This is definitely a book I recommend, and though I’d love to say more, I hate spoilers. Read this one, but not in the airport or before a long trip. Don’t worry about the loose ends, or that this is more of mystery than a thriller. All the hype so far has been well deserved. You will be thinking about this one long after you close the cover and turn out the light. Enjoy.
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: May 31, 2016