Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!
Me? Reviewing non-YA books two weeks in a row? I’m in rare form…
I just have to review this one, though. I’ve been a massive fan of Noah Hawley’s work on television for years; Fargo is my favorite show, and Legion follows very close behind. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that he’s written several books!
I spent some of my Christmas gift card money for a local bookstore on this one, and man, I’m so glad that I did. I’m not usually one for mystery, but Before the Fall is a slow-burning but visibly intricate novel that I’m sure I’ll never forget.
Enjoy this week’s review!
One night in August, an unknown disaster causes a private plane to crash into the ocean with 11 people onboard, including the crew. Most are powerful media giants or their companions, some soon to be convicted of crimes, others on the road to even more fame and fortune. The only exception is that of Scott Burroughs, a struggling painter on his way to New York.
Scott, along with the four-year-old son of a powerful newscaster, are the only survivors.
Now in the midst of a national conspiracy, Scott finds his privacy tumbling down around him as the media attempts to decipher the cause of the plane crash–malfunction, terrorism, or something else entirely?
TW/CW: Plane crash/resulting trauma, loss of loved ones, death(s) (adults and children), substance abuse
[chanting to myself in front of the mirror] “stop talking about Fargo…stop talking about Fargo…STOP TALKING ABOUT FARGO…”
My first 5-star read of 2021, ladies, gentlemen & others! I’ll admit that my expectations were absolutely through-the-roof high, but I’m delighted to say that Before the Fall 110% met them.
This was my first exposure to Noah Hawley’s novels, but I’ve adored his work ever since falling in love with Fargo and Legion. But even though there’s a significant gap between experiencing a TV show and a book, this still felt just as cinematic. It really felt like I was watching an episode of Fargo; the writing did meander a bit and linger on things for too long, but it felt like drifting through plot points as we get more information on the characters. Something that I always value in any good novel is a clear care for even the smallest of details, and Before the Fall was exemplary in that department.
Now, I read fast. It’s a problem, at this point. But it’s not every book that makes me actively think “man, I can’t wait until I have a break so I can pick this up again!” And Before the Fall built up such a suspenseful and gripping story that I found myself looking forward to the times in my day when I could kick back and read it. Hawley’s writing instantly pulled me in and didn’t let me go until the final page. Everything in this novel felt deliberate, placed just so to make for a plot that kept me guessing all the way through.
Normally, writing that tends to ramble bothers me sometimes; it feels like the author’s going off on random tangents that have no pertinence to the central plot. And maybe I’m biased, but Hawley made it work in such a way that I looked forward to all of the little digressions throughout the novel. Throughout Before the Fall, backstory and suspense are built through a series of thorough snapshots–obituaries, days in the lives of the dead passengers, and more. Even Scott’s paintings–the subject matter of which is far more important than I would’ve thought at first–help to make the mystery unravel. (As well as help Scott’s reputation unravel…oops…) Every single character, even the side characters that seldom make an appearance, felt astoundingly authentic, someone you could pass by on the street, so fleshed-out they were.
All in all, a stunning and intricate mystery from one of my favorite creative minds. I’m 100% going to read Hawley’s other novels now. 5 stars!
Before the Fall is a standalone, but Noah Hawley is also the author of The Good Father, A Conspiracy of Tall Men, The Punch, and Other People’s Weddings. He is also the executive producer/writer/director of the TV adaptations of Fargo (FX) and Legion. (FX/Marvel television)
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!