In the opening of Noah Hawley’s Before the Fall, a private plane crashes, leaving alive just one struggling artist and a small boy, not related to him. At least that’s all we think are alive, because no bodies are found. Where are they and why did the plane crash? It was a fine evening and the plane had no problems. The rest of the book flashes between the aftermath of the crash and the pre-crash lives of all the plane passengers to answer that question.
Our crash survivor is Scott Burroughs, the artist and amazing swimmer who actually swims to shore with a little boy on his back. The boy, JJ, is the son of the man who chartered the plane, David, and his wife, Maggie. Their daughter Rachel and their bodyguard Gil were also on the plane. David owns a Fox News-like television network and recently found out about some shady dealings of one of his on-screen talents that could cause a lot of problems. Ben and Sarah, friends of David’s, are also on the plane and Ben has a lot of problems of his own, some of which he reveals to David before they take off. And then, of course, there are the crew members: a seasoned pilot, a party boy co-pilot, and a beautiful young flight attendant. We learn a lot more about the lives and secrets of all these people as we try to determine what happened to the plane, and I had so much fun trying to put this puzzle together.
This is the kind of mystery I like, where there are many possible outcomes and perpetrators and my mind changes multiple times as new secrets and backstories are revealed. This reminded me somewhat of the movie “Gosford Park” where everyone had a motive and it just took more secrets to finally find out whodunnit.
But the whodunnit here really disappointed me. When we figure out what happened, I honestly said aloud, “Seriously?” I was so interested in the rest of the book, with great stories about wiretapping, corporate greed, and crumbling relationships, and there were so many interesting ways the book could’ve gone, but the ending was basically the same old story we see in many mysteries.
The author of this book is the creator of the TV show “Fargo,” so I was really looking forward to some intricate, crazy stories, and there is some of that here, but the ending wasn’t “Fargo”-worthy. I still really liked getting to the ending, and I would recommend this book, but damn, the ending played it way safer than I was expecting from the creator of “Fargo.”