Book review: “Before the Fall,” by Noah Hawley

by DGO Web Administrator

“Before the Fall,” by Noah HawleyReview by Shelley WalchakIt’s not very often that you find a perfect match between a character study and a suspense novel, but Noah Hawley has succeeded in accomplishing this in his new book “Before the Fall.” The novel centers on Scott Burroughs, an eccentric, wannabe artist. Burroughs attracts the attention of Maggie, a wealthy down-to-earth woman who offers him a ride on her family’s private plane out of Nantucket to New York, where he is hoping to sell some of his “disaster-scene” paintings. His fortune turns into catastrophe when the plane crashes into the ocean shortly after takeoff killing everyone on board except Scott and JJ, Maggie’s son.

Scott survives a harrowing 10-hour swim to shore through shark-infested waters and humongous waves with a dislocated shoulder and little JJ on his back. It’s too amazing to be true – and that’s exactly the problem. No one can understand how he could have could have survived and why the others on the plane, including some of the most influential businessmen in the country did not.

Hawley leads the reader along a whodunit pathway devoting a chapter to analyzing each of the victims involved as well as a few extra, like an anchor of a Fox-like news station. The reader is pulled into a detective role trying to figure out the cause of the crash through the flashbacks of each of the characters. The outcome is surprising and somewhat of a fizzle, but getting there is an absorbing journey.

Shelley Walchak is director of the Pine River Library in Bayfield and author of “52 Rivers: A Woman’s Fly-Fishing Journey.”

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