Before the Fall: Noah Hawley
The destination was supposed to be Martha’s Vineyard and the transportation taking these rich passengers traveling on it a private plane. The weather did not help as there was fog and the end result was tragic for all but two passengers on the plane. David Bateman is the head of a huge television network and along with his wife Maggie and son JJ and daughter Rachel they are about to embark on this journey with another couple invited to join them. Ben Kipling, a rich and powerful Wall Street player and his wife Sarah, who is anything but thrilled about going to Martha’s Vineyard, not like Maggie who relishes in the scenery and rustic atmosphere. Sarah hates the beach and the sunsets do not interest her at all. Personally shopping at an expensive department store is how she would rather spend her time. But, at the last minute something happens, the pilot has to wait for one passenger, an unsuccessful artist, Scott Burroughs, handsome, middle aged and not very successful joins the group. Sort of like a misfit in this group they welcome him to join the flight along with the pilot, co-pilot, stewardess and Bateman’s bodyguard. So, why did this plane crash after taking off just 16 minutes in the air leaving Scott and Bateman’s son JJ as the only two survivors? You know how the media loves to embellish and fictionalize and create more hype as we meet talk show commentator and host with a huge ego and inflated head, Bill Cunningham whose goal it is to learn more about the crash, exploiting the death of his boss David Bateman and really going through the motions of mourning him. The author introduces us to Scott in more detail as he and JJ the only two survivors bond when in dangerous waters and has to swim for safety hoping to be rescued. Cunningham in the interim wants to deal with the story and goes after it full force while Scott along with JJ swims to Montauk in total darkness with a dislocated shoulder and JJ. Questions that come to mind are why was Scott and unsuccessful artist invited on this plane and why risk his life to safe JJ? Money or something else? The reader begins to wonder more about the 14 people that were killed, if anyone was being targeted and if this was really an accident or someone wanted this plane to go down. Scott and JJ bond in the hospital until his aunt and uncle who is not the warmest person and you begin to wonder if he is going to be safe and nurtured under his roof, as they talk and Scott feels a certain connection to him even after he is released. But, the media wants to get to question him and he manages with the help of a friend to evade them. Stalked by the media and needing somewhere to hide we meet an heiress who seems him not just as a man but something else. JJ’s family left him a lot of money will his aunt and uncle try to take it? Added into this plot we learn that there are lots of red flags that are not realized before the flight begins. Added in Kipling learns before he comes on board that he is about to be indicted for has been laundering money or dirty money and chances are he might go to jail if the FBI serves the indictment. David reminds us when the author flashes back to his life before the crash that Rachel his wife was kidnapped as a child and they were lucky, her parents to get her back. But, how and why has yet to be revealed. Kipling wants to ask David how to handle this indictment and his advice.
The plane is a private OSPRY that was piloted by James Melody and his co-pilot Charles Busch. Security appeared to be tight as Gil Baruch with a security detail watched over the Batemans and Rachel. Although Gus Franklin responded to the crash and realized that there only two survived and that JJ would not be a multi-millionaire you have to hear the voices of Maggie his aunt and that of his greedy uncle who flashes dollar signs in his head thinking that eh will take some of what he feels he deserves for caring for JJ. Interspersed within the novel are descriptions of Scott’s latest paintings which as this crash was a disaster each one depicts another one in living color. One such painting’s subject is a plane crash, which. makes it impossible for Scott not to face the media and the public to explain his choice of subjects for his paintings. But, does his relate to his own life, why would he be considered unsuccessful? Each painting depicts a tragic ending and in each one no one survives the tragedy depicted. The major portion of the wreckage of the plane is found and the surprise is that there are bullet holes in the door of the cockpit and a dead pilot on the wrong side of the cockpit door. But how and why?
Meeting Bill Cunningham and hearing him speak about David Bateman and Dipling understanding that they were two powerful men just with all of the security and the flight check how could this happen? Recorders with data recovered and anything on there decoded. Gus listens as she realizes that Charlie Busch led a difficult life as a child but taken under the wing of his uncle a Senator. But, Emma and Charlie’s relationship was abusive. Charlie the abuser. Cocaine was found in his blood when the toxicology report came in and that means when he flew that plane he was high on drugs and alcohol which also showed up in the report. Did Charlie berate Emma and crash the plane on purpose? James Melody is British and the pilot and Charlie the co-pilot and Emma the flight attendant. The Batemans with Rachel and JJ their children and others crashed into the water right off Martha’s Vineyard so why didn’t they find all of the bodies?
Listening to Scott related by the media as a hero for saving JJ does not make him feel any special and the feelings he gets are as if why me and not the rest of the passengers as we learn more about the money laundering and Kipling’s dealings with terrorist countries and their money as well as Russian gangsters.
There were many theories about what might have happened as the media thinks that Scott and Maggie Bateman had more than just a social relationship. Some think Ben Kipper was the target, others Bateman as head of the news network. Some thought it might be a terrorist attack but no matter who thinks what it still does not uncover the truth. Scott seems the focus and his paintings each a tragic depiction of a real life event and each with dead bodies hidden on each canvas. But, at this point he is hiding out with an old girlfriend hoping to allude the media and the public. Bateman is the central character although killed in the crash working for a billionaire yet to be identified. Maggie a former schoolteacher does not really care of focus on his money and worries about her two children. Reading Ben Cunningham’s words, the producer on television we get a different image. Tapping phones, emails read and other secured technology that he finds a way to monitor and read, the seven passengers on the downed flight include Emma flight attendant and just what was her relationship with the co-pilot? In the interim Scott ponders what happened to JJ, the millions that he’s worth and when Gus Franklin meets him with Eleanor his aunt, now guardian, you realize that he has reverted into his own thoughts and mind saying nothing and just playing with this toy figures. JJ is naïve and has yet to learn who to trust namely should he trust is aunt and Uncle as we hear Doug speaking as if the money will come to him. The only person so far that he feels at ease with is Scott. Cunningham is anything but reliable and wants to prove the existence of some type of conspiracy.
Bill Cunningham is after ratings and bugging the phones of the victims and their relatives was his way of thinking the world would know the truth behind what happened during the flight and questioning Scott on air and trying to make him into some kind of liar and implying he and Eleanor were having an affair and that’s why she threw her husband out showed that he would do anything to get a story, true or false and be in the limelight. Truths, lies, deceits and when you hear the tape of the black box the reader will be in shock as to why so many innocent people died at the hand of someone who took their lives for a reason you just won’t believe. Why were their bullets shot into the cockpit door and who shot them? Why were they fired? Why was the captain not in the cockpit and outside on the wrong side of the door? Why was there no maybe day from the copilot?
Meet the co-pilot Charles Busch, here his voice, learn why he was there on the flight and not the origin person slated for the flight. Find out if the preflight checklist was done and if any problems were noted and ignored. Find out what the final fate of these people would have been if someone had not decided to take the lives of children, adults and people in his/her hands because things would never have happened if someone would have realized the error before the flight took over. Why didn’t the pilot redo the flight check? Read about Emma and learn about why some did not or would not want her on the flight. Learn more about Charles Busch, hear Scott as he is asked questions and then sends it back to Bill. Learn why JJ might need some help and why Scott is the right person and the only one he might trust. Every person on that flight experienced sadness and difficulties in the past as you will learn when reading their bios after their deaths. The author flashes between the past and the present allowing you the reader to learn who these people were and why someone might target one or more to end their lives. Would you call Scott a hero? What happens when Layla, Bill, Doug, Eleanor, Gus and JJ come into his life after the crash? What happened just before the last seconds of the lives of these people occurred? What went through their minds BEFORE THE FALL? An ending so terrifying and so horrific you won’t believe why this plane crashed and a character named Scott Burroughs who you will either empathize with or hate. A little boy named JJ who will tear at your heart and a heartless man named Bill Cunningham who managed to enlighten us all. Author Noah Hawley created a novel that will make people realize the gravity of checks and balances before a flight, pilot error and even more what happens when one tragedy leads to even more. Well crafted. Outstanding vivid descriptions of each character and a book worthy of my five golden plane wings for a safe flight for all readers.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine