Rated Reads

Before the Fall

by Noah Hawley

Rated: High

Late on a foggy night, a private jet falls from the sky into the choppy and cold Atlantic Ocean, killing a media mogul and his wife and their daughter, as well as the crew and a few passengers. One passenger, however, an artist who just happened to need a ride from Martha’s Vineyard into New York that day and got an invitation to fly from the media mogul’s kind and pretty young wife, manages to swim to shore during the night towing the couple’s young son.

This is a fact readers know at the very beginning of Before the Fall. What spools out over the course of the book are the stories of each passenger and the events leading up to the flight and crash. In between the backstories are sections set in the present, with the hero, Scott, trying to a) lie low as the media goes into a frenzy over the mysterious crash that caused the death of the head of a news network that’s a fictional version of Fox News and b) help investigators figure out why the plane went down and if it was an accident or was an attack on one of the passengers.

Plenty of familiar characters are ripe for use in the novel: there’s the annoying and loud-mouthed conservative pundit; the Wall Street guy who’s just starting to be investigated for fraud; a 20-something heiress who collects people and experiences; the government employees wrangling for control of the investigation; the pretty young wife who was just a kindergarten teacher when she met her older, wealthy husband; the wife’s sister who’s just as pretty and married to a jerk.

At the end of the book, it’s revealed who was responsible for the crash. The story just goes one by one through characters and essentially eliminates each possible culprit, and then the last one gets his time, and that’s it.

This book has gotten a lot of hype but it just didn’t seem that extraordinary to me. Your standard thriller with stock characters and setup. And on top of that, it’s full, just CHOCK-FULL, of strong language.

Rated: High. There must be 50 or more uses of strong language (too many for me to count), as well as crude sexual references and some mentions of nudity, but no sex scenes, per se.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • Before the Fall
  • by Noah Hawley
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: