Several colleagues and I started an IRL book club at work four months ago. We met at lunchtime on Thursday to discuss Before the Fall. Marketed as a thriller with the hook “On a foggy summer night, eleven people—ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter—depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.” The book follows Scott in the days immediately following the crash with flashbacks to the lives of the now-deceased passengers and crew.
Surprisingly, our opinion of the book was unanimous. Pretty much everybody was intrigued by the concept of the book and hated the execution. The general feeling was that Before the Fall wasn’t suspenseful enough for the thriller designation and that the story stopped living up to the promise of the opening sequence as soon as Scott left the hospital.
As one of my colleagues said, this book is awash in red herrings, but rather than them being fat meaty fish that we could believe in, there’s this swarm of pink minnows darting around pallid characters.
While you can’t really say anything about how the book ends, or “whodunit” without spoilers, we were dissatisfied with how the book ended and had some significant questions about the timing of certain things.
As an aside, while the consensus is that we are unlikely to read anything else by Mr. Hawley, we wish that Gil the security guard had survived the crash so that he could be the protagonist of his own book.