A plausible, well-paced look at the ghoulish side of celebrity, with realistic depictions of the media circus, the jockeying among investigators, the invasion of privacy, and the guilt that can afflict survivors of tragedy.
Why I love it
On a foggy summer night, a small private plane departs Martha's Vineyard bound for New York City. Sixteen minutes later, the plane is in the ocean. Nine lives are lost. The only survivors are a four-year-old boy, now the sole heir to a huge fortune, and a down-on-his luck painter named Scott.
Immediately, there are questions: What caused the crash? How did a poor artist end up on the private plane of a wealthy media mogul? Does he know what caused the crash? Did he cause the crash?
Scott's story is the anchor around which this compelling mystery is wrapped. Thrust into a public spotlight he never wanted, and under investigation for an accident he can't remember, Scott hides from the media and tries to retake control of his life. As he struggles to recover in the aftermath of the crash, reporters dog him everywhere he goes, spreading rumors and sharing intimate details from his life.
And there's a plethora of interesting characters that add to the texture and allure of the narrative: a money manager under investigation by the SEC, a relative that could gain control of a big pile of money (and her belligerent husband), a loudmouthed talk show host, a glamorous art collector, and a security crew with military background, not to mention the plane's pilots and crewmembers. On top of being a riveting mystery, Before the Fall provides a plausible, well-paced look at the ghoulish side of celebrity, with realistic depictions of the media circus, the jockeying among investigators, the invasion of privacy, and the guilt that can afflict survivors of tragedy.
The thing I enjoyed most – and I enjoyed many things – is that it is a refreshing pause from the many thrillers contending for the Gone Girl throne. A straightforward, whodunit mystery about accountability and redemption that builds to a single incredible climax is an exhilarating rarity these days. I raced through this book, desperately excited to find out what happened. And when the cause of the crash is finally revealed, my stomach dropped and I audibly gasped. I hope you do, too.