Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

There is no doubt in my mind that Noah Hawley has a summer blockbuster on his hands. This is the kind of book that I would recommend, without qualification, to both my literary friends and those who simply love to get lost in a page-turning thriller.

The framework of the book is simple enough: one summer night, a plane takes off carrying the head of a major television network and his family, a soon-to-be-indicted wealthy money launderer and his wife, a security detail, the crew, and one last minute add-on, a painter named Scott Burroughs who is right on the cusp of fame. Sixteen minutes later, the plane crashes, leaving only Scott and the young son of the television mogul alive.

On the most elemental level, this is a an old-fashioned mystery: why would a plane serviced just the day before, flown by top-notch pilots, drop off radar minutes after take-off? Given the importance of the passengers, was the crash deliberate? Does Scott know more than he’s saying?

But on a deeper level, this is a book that is unafraid to tackle the bigger questions of a catastrophe: the drawing of false conclusions. The 24/7 news media’s need to sensationalize situations and hound the victims. The way that other people’s tragedies have become blood sport in a world where all news – important or not – is flattened out into an endless entertainment cycle on a “boob tube.” The difficulty of believing in heroes. And the biggest question of all: why are we thriving on parasitical vulture exploitation and how have we gotten so divorced from the things that really matter?

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