Scott Burroughs is a painter in midlife who has really never made a name for himself in the art world; he is alone and apparently will stay that way. He meets Maggie, a woman in a store where he is buying supplies for work. They strike up a conversation and it comes out that Scott has to go to New York the next day. Maggie tells him that she and her family, along with several other people, are flying to New York from Martha’s Vineyard, and since it is a private plane Scott is offered a ride. He accepts, and the next day joins Maggie, her family and some other people on the plane.
Others on the flight include wealthy people with different backgrounds thrown together by chance for the trip. There is the stewardess, Emma Lightner, a man facing arrest for fraud perpetrated against his company, an Israeli bodyguard, and a last second replacement co-pilot, who claims that he is a substitute for the regular man who became ill at the last second.
With the characters drawn up, the book enters into a plot that moves with the speed of light. The plane crashes into the ocean. Scott manages to get free of the wreckage, and picks up J.J., Maggie’s little boy. He then performs a herculean feat by swimming to shore, many miles from the site, holding up and saving J.J. in the process. The press picks up the event and Scott becomes the hero he deserves to be.
Investigation by the authorities into the cause of the disaster paints a picture of all on board. Could the crash have been caused on purpose? Who would have done so and why?
Scott is, of course, initially looked upon as a possible suspect. J.J. is placed in Maggie’s sister’s custody, with access to the fortune Maggie and her husband have in order to maintain J.J. while a child and later to pass on to him. The boy insists on being with Scott and Scott feels a bond with him.
Eventually the bodies of the other passengers are recovered, with the exception of the Israeli bodyguard. Bullet holes are found in the locked door to the cockpit where the co-pilot is found dead. What happened, who caused the crash? Where is the bodyguard, and why were bullets fired at the cockpit door?
If this is not an all-nighter for anyone picking it up, nothing will ever be. A very different novel and certainly whetting the reader’s appetite for more by Noah Hawley, hopefully as fast as possible.
6/16 Paul Lane
BEFORE THE FALL by Noah Hawley. Grand Central Publishing; 1 edition (May 31, 2016). ISBN 978-1455561780. 400p.