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All booksMysteryBefore the Fall
Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the Fall

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Noah Hawley, on your first book!

by Noah Hawley

Quick take

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

Liberty Hardy
BOTM Judge

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.

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Member thoughts

All (1589)
All (1589)
Love (617)
Like (844)
Dislike (128)
1640 ratings
  • 38% Love
  • 51% Like
  • 8% Dislike
  • Chicago, IL

    I loved the book throughout the entire thing, except when I got to the ending it did feel like a bit of a letdown. However maybe that's more a commentary on me as a reader, expecting it to be complex.

  • Schofield, WI

    Very strong characters that you wanted to know all about. I had figured out 2/3 way not a major character at fault. Besides that concurrence, it was still an intriguing read. Love Hawley's writing.

  • Methuen, MA

    BOM just doesn't have the right emojis for this book. No surreal twists here. Straightforward mystery where it's the person you'd least suspect. But so well written you still can't believe the ending.

  • Irving, TX

    Kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very end! The ending at first left me startled, but when I thought about the theme of the book I realized I was just as guilty as the antagonists!!

  • Atmore, AL

    I couldn't put this down. Strong opening with the plain crash and then I loved the way the author revealed what happened on the plane by unraveling each passengers back story chapter by chapter.

  • Centreville, VA

    This was a wonderful mystery. The book starts out with a whole bunch of possibilities that it slowly whittles down to the one right conclusion. I also loved the underlying social commentary.


    This novel is less about a crash and more about the human condition. Noah Hawley did a beautiful job portraying people's back stories, they're thoughts and feelings, and their imperfections.

  • Worcester, MA

    I’m kind of tired of stories whose timelines and character back stories jump around but this was done very well. I didn’t predict the outcome and the conclusion really made me feel sad.

  • Columbus, OH

    I definitely was not expecting the ending and ultimately the reason for the plane crash. You really get to know the people on the plane over the course of the novel esp. the main character.

  • Palatine , IL

    I couldn't put this book down - I had to find out what happened. I loved the way that Hawley went between the present and then dove into everyone's past. Such great character development.

  • Studio City, CA

    Noah Hawley is a great story teller that build from the characters more than the plot itself. I was constantly challenged by the mystery of the plane crash and what happened. Great read.

  • Brooklyn, NY

    As a fan of his shows, I was happy to read a Hawley book! An intelligent summer read that has you guessing until the end why the plane crashed. Really great cast of characters as well.

  • Akron, OH

    I'm not normally a big fan of thrillers but I loved this one. The character development was excellent and the plot carried me through the book quickly. I'll never forget the water scene.

  • Concord, NH

    Even though I'm reviewing this a long time after I read it, I still remember when went down and that's the sign of a truly good book. A true who-dunnit - and it wasn't who I expected!

  • Houston , TX

    there's so much good about this book...just a wonderful page turner with an extremely likeable main character. also, really thought provoking when it comes to the way news is covered.

  • Summerville, SC

    I honestly could never have guessed the ending. While reading it, I suspected every single character along the way. I have recommended this book to every member of my family. So good!

  • South Elgin , IL

    So good! I love Hawley's characterizations. He makes the reader work to figure out exactly what is happening while, at the same time, never actively hiding details. Amazing writing!

  • Hudson, NY

    This book lives up to its hype, that is for sure! Really superb character development throughout, and the way plot details were leaked a little at a time made it unputdownable.

  • Tacoma, WA

    How much of this story is based on actual media and people I don't know, but I made several connections that made the story all the more powerful. The ending was a shocker!

  • Helena, AL

    This was a great read. It had less to do with the plane crash more to do with the aftermath. It was an enjoyable mystery and at the same time I thought provoking novel.

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