Sunday, November 13, 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This is not the type of book I normally read, but it was recommended so I thought I would give it a try.  It was quite interesting except that I found the ending to be a disappointment (I will not reveal it here so as not to spoil the mystery).

A small private plane carrying 11 passengers and crew members takes off from Martha's Vineyard airport for the short flight to Teeterboro, New Jersey.  About 15 minutes after take off the plane mysteriously plunges into the ocean and there are only 2 survivors - Scott Burroughs, an unsuccessful painter who was invited on the plane at the last minute, and TJ, a four year old boy.  Having been a swimmer in high school, Scott carries the boy on his back and miraculously swims them to safety, landing on the coast of Long Island.

After reading about the harrowing rescue, the rest of the book focuses on piecing together why the crash happened.  The framework is the investigation by the authorities:  the NTSB, the FBI (fearing it may have been terrorism), and the Office of Foreign Asset Control (since one passenger was on the eve of being arrested for money laundering).  A more tabloid style investigation is being conducted by Bill Cunningham, the controversial anchor of the new channel operated by the executive whose plane went down (TJ's father).  Bill is trying to suggest Scott is no hero but was having an affair with his boss' wife (which is why he was invited on the plane) and is now after TJ's money.

The chapters all delve into the pasts of the passengers and crew of the plane, searching for causes and motives.  Eventually the black box is recovered and all is revealed, but the answer is somewhat anti-climactic for me.  I think perhaps the most interesting part of the book was how both journalists and law enforcement officials could twist what few facts they had available to suit their interests - and how that's the news that people want to watch.

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