“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.”
My Thoughts: At BEA this year, they were heavily pushing Before the Fall as the must-read book of the event. It was the book most eagerly grabbed at the Book Group Speed Dating event. Hell, it was even advertised on everyone’s badges. The problem with this is that there are now high expectations for a book that was literally in front of people’s faces for three days. Thankfully, that should be no problem because it is a fantastic thriller.
The plane’s demise is the centerpiece of the story. The story flows back and forth from flashbacks of passengers and crew members of the ill-fated flight and the survivors’ struggles to adjust to the strange new world in which they find themselves. All of the characters’ stories show the hidden truths behind the facades. More importantly, Scott’s own experiences show the hidden truths behind the media’s representation of him. Everyone has secrets, but not everyone gets on a private jet that crashes less than thirty minutes into the flight. It is these secrets which become the key to unraveling the mystery behind the plane’s crash. There is also a bit of irony as the media uncovers all sorts of secrets about the victims as well as Scott, as the lone surviving male, but fails to uncover the biggest, most scandalous secrets.
The truly surprising thing about Before the Fall is that it is not just a mystery thriller about the cause of the plane crash. It is also a targeted skewering of the media. Mr. Hawley combines to two story lines with ease and in such a way that makes sense given that one of the passengers on the fated flight was a media mogul. His own news staff are the ones to refuse to let the story die all in an effort to make sure the people know the truth. Their ability to find scandal where none exists as well as their complete and unabashed stalking of Scott and the boy gives insight into the world of news that is chilling. Even worse are the means which one particular news celebrity uses to obtain his “facts”. The result is truly uncomfortable and infuriating and yet utterly brilliant.
Hopefully, all of the buzz will not prevent readers from experiencing the emotional roller coaster of Before the Fall. Scott’s rescuing of the boy is unforgettable and a must-read if ever there was one. The rest of the story is equally mesmerizing. In our current society, where the media fights for attention-grabbing headlines, Scott’s experiences after the crash are every bit as disturbing as the reasons for the crash itself. Taken together, Before the Fall is the type of novel that captures a reader’s full attention and demands to be read in as few sittings as possible.