Before the Fall – Noah Hawley


Great book with a disappointing ending that makes me hesitant to recommend it.

This is a hard book to review.  It’s about the crash of a private plane with eleven people on board.  Only two of the passengers – a middle-aged painter who was a last-minute invite on the flight and the young son of one of the families on board – survive.  No one knows what caused the plane to crash, and the passenger list – including the famous head of a news network and a high-flying financial type under investigation by the US government for money-laundering – makes interest in the crash intense.

The book is great literally until the last page.  After telling about the crash and the miraculous survival of the two people (who come out of the crash with no idea of what happened), it gives the backstory of the others on board and slowly begins to uncover possible reasons for the crash.  In doing so, it also gives us a picture of today’s news cycle and how networks rarely stop at simply reporting the news – they like to make it too (and conspiracy theories are great for ratings).

By the way – the news network that is affected by the crash is very obviously supposed to be Fox News.  And the main talking head on TV who continually suggests all kinds of conspiracies for the crash is very obviously supposed to be Bill O’Reilly.  That said, there wasn’t an overtly political tone to the book and the references didn’t make it less enjoyable.

What DID make it less enjoyable was the ending.  The whole book is well written and keeps you interested.  You care about the characters and you root for several of them.  The story is told mostly from the perspective of the painter and you really like him.  And the backstories of the other passengers on the plane are fascinating.  Finding out the reasons behind who was on the plane and why, and what was going on in their lives when they got on really heightened the anticipation for how it would all come out.  Those stories along with the blow-by-blow of the investigation – carried out by the FBI and federal aviation authorities – really built toward a fun conclusion.  I kept thinking as I read that I bet there’s more to the painter’s story than we know and this good guy is going to end up being involved in dark ways we can’t anticipate.

And then…a total dud.  The author went with an obvious ending that didn’t involve anyone we really cared all that much about, and a solution that had been telegraphed a couple of chapters earlier.  It was a complete letdown.  As a matter of fact, I read the last page and turned it thinking there was more.  When I found there wasn’t, I actually got mad.  It was as if the author was writing and looked up at the clock and thought, “Whoa!  I didn’t realize it was this late!  Guess I’ll wrap this up with a quick, one-page ending and still make dinner.”  He blatantly cheated us (and I’m not over it).

The thing that’s so disappointing is that this was a good read.  I devoured this book – read it in just over a day (had some quiet time over the weekend).  So to be left with nothing as a payoff was doubly hard.  If the journey would’ve been mediocre the destination wouldn’t have mattered so much.  But to do such a good job of setting everything up only to take the lazy way out was inexcusable.

So do I recommend it?  I can’t.  However, I also can’t say it’s not worth your time.  Maybe you won’t be as disappointed in the ending as I was (although a search on the web shows that I’m certainly not alone).  And if you don’t mind the ending, the rest of the book is really good.  But I’m definitely not going to tell you to find it at the local library.  The potential for frustration is too high.

It really could’ve been so good.  What an opportunity missed.

One thought on “Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

  1. Dale and I were reading this on a shared Kindle (at separate times, not side by side) and he finished way before I did and steered me into the right direction…as in don’t waste your time! Someone needs to grab NOAH by the collar and tell him we don’t have time for this sort of thing!!

    Sent from my iPhone



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