Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

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Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A tense thriller from the guy who brought us TV's Fargo: an inexplicable plane crash becomes the vehicle for the examination of our goldfish bowl world.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: April 2017
Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1444779776

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All artist Scott Burroughs did was to accept the offer from the wife of a media mogul for a short plane ride, not realising it will shape the rest of his life. The private jet falls out of the sky, making him a hero in the way he saved the only other survivor, the mogul's small son and heir JJ. The search for answers makes Scott uncomfortable in many ways, especially when he realises that for some he's not so much the hero as the murderer. Are they right?

American writer Noah Hawley has an impressive back catalogue that includes, amongst many things, creating the TV series Fargo and the thriller The Good Father, something I remember vividly for all the right reasons even 5 years after reviewing it. Now we have Before the Fall with a cleverness that goes beyond its punned title.

Noah draws us in from the beginning. We start with the crash and then work backwards, looking at the lives of each victim in a way that's reassuringly not played for sympathy. Most have a twist-providing surprise in their pasts, scattering motives across personalities like sinister confetti and silently inviting us to guess who was behind the downing of a perfectly good aircraft.

David Bateman the TV news channel boss (whose wife took a shine to Scott) has just discovered the worst sort of veracity-crushing scandal in his organisation. Has this upset someone badly enough to side-line him fatally?

Meanwhile friend and co-passenger Ben Kipling begins to realise the implications of his more creative income choices. Then again there's Gil, the Batemans' ex-Israeli-forces bodyguard...

As we go back and forth between real time in investigations and past biographies our imaginations and suspicions are piqued. The mini-life stories temper the pace, slowing it slightly while we take time to appreciate the relevant detail and insights into a world of privilege and unhappiness. Money doesn't equate to Nirvana as the tale of kidnap haunting Maggie Bateman proves.

There's someone else we grow to dislike intensely - Bill Gilligan. He wasn't on the plane but still has a major role to play on the ground. As news anchor-man and source of David's worries, he takes investigative journalism to new lows. This gives Noah the opportunity to include a commentary on the modern media that we see played out in the real world on a daily basis.

Gilligan is a satisfying baddie, twisting metaphorical knives with the same deftness with which he twists truths. We just hang on to every word waiting for that final reveal, hoping we're right about Scott… but then there are those disturbing paintings.

Our opinions change chapter by chapter. In fact when the answer does emerge, in some ways it's a bit of an anti-climax from a thriller context yet we arrive breathless and more than happy with the journey. This is a thriller roller coaster ride for sure and one that I'd definitely do again.

(Thank you Hodder Paperbacks for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like to sample more of Noah's work, we highly recommend the aforementioned The Good Father. If you're already a fan and would like to read more of the best thrillers around at the moment, try Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney or The Legacy: Children's House Book 1 by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Victoria Cribb (translator). Meanwhile if you'd like another reason for not getting on a plane, we just as heartily recommend After The Crash by Michel Bussi.

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Buy Before the Fall by Noah Hawley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before the Fall by Noah Hawley at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Before the Fall by Noah Hawley at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Before the Fall by Noah Hawley at


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