Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

beforethefallcoverOfficial Synopsis from Goodreads: On a foggy summer night, eleven people–ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter–depart Martha’s Vineyard headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the passengers disappear 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 a wealthy and powerful media mogul’s family.
With chapters weaving between the aftermath of the tragedy 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 crash heightens. As the passengers’ intrigues unravel, odd coincidences point to a conspiracy: Was it merely 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–all while the reader draws closer and closer to uncovering the truth.
The fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy glows at the heart of this novel, raising questions of fate, human nature, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.

Genre: Thriller (but I disagree), Mystery, Fiction
Setting: Modern day Martha’s Vineyard and New York City
My copy came from: I borrowed the hardback from my local library.

Review: Slow and plodding, but wraps up nicely. I didn’t care for this book.

Before the Fall is billed as a thriller, with the flyleaf of the hardcover even going so far as to proclaim it “the thriller of the year”. I don’t know what these people were reading, as I thought this was the slowest thriller, the least thrilling thriller that I’ve ever read. The cozy mysteries that I read have far more suspense than this book had.

Everyone has their path. The choices they’ve made. How any two people end up in the same place at the same time is a mystery.

The book starts out with a plane crash, and then goes back and forth in time and focuses on the people who were onboard the plane when it crashed on a flight from Martha’s Vineyard to New York. There are only two survivors of the crash, an artist named Scott Burroughs, and a young, wealthy boy named JJ. Their survival story was harrowing and suspenseful; unfortunately, their survival scenes were right at the beginning of the book, and the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the suspense of Scott and JJ’s story of the aftermath of the crash out in the ocean.


The rest of the book contains glimpses into the lives of all of the people on the plane, with scenes from the past, and scenes post-crash involving Scott and the various investigators who are looking into the cause of the plane crash. We hear from JJ’s parents, David and Maggie Bateman, and another couple who was on the plane, Ben and Sarah. We get glimpses into the pilot and co-pilots lives, even the flight attendant, Emma, and also the Bateman’s security guard, Gil.

Out of all the characters, I liked the captain, James, the most. Which is unfortunate, because he’s barely in the book. Scott, who has most of the narrative, is somewhat interesting, just because I was trying to figure out if I could believe his story or not. Many of the characters were slimy sleaze balls, and there was a lot of language and derogatory comments towards women. It is actually a very timely book in regards to current events in the US, and rich men thinking they own the world, and how media portrays the news. So, in regards to these items, the book makes a great conversation piece.

He knew that the world was an impossibility, that the state of Israel was an impossibility, that every day men woke and put on their boots and went off to do the impossible no matter what it might be. This was the hubris of mankind, to rally in the face of overwhelming odds, to thread the needle and climb the mountain and survive the storm.

My biggest issue with the book is that it’s billed as a thriller, and I did not feel any drive within the story, or anything that kept me engrossed in the book. The book is more of a character study, as there is hardly any action here. The big mystery is why did the plane crash, and Before the Fall brings up so many red herrings and unresolved plot lines, that after a few chapters I stopped seriously considering any of the plots as reasons for the crash. This may have been why I didn’t feel any sense of mystery here in regards to why the plane crashed. Not that I didn’t care, I did, but I didn’t believe any of the reasons brought forth as possibilities for the crash. And when I found out the real reason? Uggh. What a dud of a reason. Sorry. I read the book for that?

But while the real reason of the plane crash may be a bit lackluster, the last three pages of the book were excellent, and Before the Fall has a satisfactory ending. But thriller of the year? Not even close. I like my thrillers to have that thrill, adventure, and mystery, and to be a bit of a brain puzzle. This one didn’t hit that mark for me. This was a book club read, and we really had mixed views. Some loved it, I disliked it, and some were so-so about it. It was a good discussion book however. Hopefully I will enjoy our next selection, I Am Malala, more.

Bottom Line: More of a character study than a thriller. Slow, but the ending will satisfy.

Links to Before the Fall on   Amazon   |    Goodreads

Have you read Before the Fall? What did you think? Do you have any thriller recommendations?


17 thoughts on “Book Review: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

  1. LOL @ “Genre: Thriller (but I disagree).” Too bad it was a bit slow. I always have a hard time rating books that took me forever to get through but had a satisfying ending. It’s like, welllll I really liked how it ended but everything else before that was a bit lukewarm?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! I haven’t read any Herman Koch yet. The Dinner is on my list, so someday… 🙂 I think I would’ve been more OK with the slowness and it being more character based had I not been told it was an exciting thriller. Slowness usually doesn’t bother me so much, but it definitely did here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh dear, this one is on my TBR – I must shove it back down the priority list! It seemed to come out to quite a lot of hype but the reviews I’ve seen have been so mixed, so I don’t think you’re alone in your reaction. I do sometimes think publishers should pay more attention to what genre they stick books in – I agree, thrillers should be thrilling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was not thrilling!! There was a bit of suspense just right at the beginning, but that was it and it took me awhile to get through. Honestly, I’m not so sure I would’ve finished the book had it not been a book club read. I was surprised to not like it, as I had heard great things about it. And one of the ladies in my book club loved the book and thought it was wonderful.

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  3. I read and reviewed this last year. I did like it, to be honest, but not as much as I’d have wanted to. I’d thought the final reveal would be something grand but it fizzled out. And yes, I think it was more a slow-burn character-driven drama than a musical. And the character of that newscaster looked taken from Network, the 1976 film. Too many similarities there.
    Wonderful review, as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks 🙂 Yeah, I remembered that you had written a review of this book! I need to go back and re-read your review now that I’ve read the book. Totally agree about the lack of reveal at the end – I was waiting for a twist or something more interesting than what happened. Ha ha – Network is such a great movie! “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Solid review! I appreciate how you outlined both the things you enjoyed and those you did not. I don’t read thrillers, so this was never on my TBR. That said, I might be interested in reading this since I prefer less suspenseful novels.

    I personally loved I Am Malala– I hope you do, too!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Oh I’m so glad to hear you loved I Am Malala! I can’t wait to start it, but want to wait until a bit closer to book club which is in mid-to-late March.
      The beginning part is a bit suspenseful, when it tells how the boy and the man survived the plane crash, but that is it. Not enough to be labelled a thriller for me! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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