I have always maintained that genre fiction can be literary. One writer who comes to mind when talking about “thrillers” with a literary flavour is Noah Hawley. A fan of his earlier work, The Good Father, I jumped at the chance to review his upcoming book, Before The Fall, and I was not disappointed.
Before The Fall begins with a tragedy –a plane crash. Aboard the plane are a Wall Street giant and his family (the Bateman: husband, wife, daughter,son), their friends (The Kiplings: a business tycoon under investigation for fraud and his wife), their bodyguard, the flight crew and an unknown painter, Scott Burroughs. When the plane goes down, the only two survivors are Scott and the Batemans’ son, JJ. From here the story moves forward tracing what happens next for the survivors; at the same time opening windows into the past, unraveling what made the plane crash.
While its tight plot and perfect pacing are alone enough to make this the “thriller of the year”, Hawley’s writing has the touch of an artist, elevating it above and beyond the competition. Even as the focus is on the “whodunnit” aspect, Hawley offers enlightening glimpses into issues like the culture of “infotainment.”
Told from multiple viewpoints, with each character revealing a tiny slice of the story, the book seems at times to be a collection of interconnected short stories, with each story offering the reader a bit more insight into the characters and their lives. Hawley gets us to care for the characters and what happens to them. We feel for Scott as he battles the sea in an effort to survive, we empathize with JJ’s silent world and live with Eleanor’s (JJ’s aunt and guardian) confusion and heartbreak.
To say anything more, would be to give too much away. Reading this book is an experience that the reader must have for themselves, whether one is looking for a tightly plotted thriller or a socially aware critique.
FTC disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for this honest review.