Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
A private plane sits on a runway in Martha's Vineyard, forward stairs deployed. It is a nine-seat OSPRY 700SL, built in 2001 in Wichita, Kansas. Whose plane it is is hard to say with real certainty. The ownership of record is a Dutch holding company with a Cayman Island mailing address, but the logo on the fuselage says GULLWING AIR. The pilot, James Melody, is British. Charlie Busch, the first officer, is from Odessa, Texas. The flight attendant, Emma Lightner, was born in Mannheim, Germany, to an American air force lieutenant and his teenage wife. They moved to San Diego when she was nine.
On a foggy summer night, eleven people--ten privileged, one down-on-his-luck painter--depart Martha's Vineyard on a private jet headed for New York. Sixteen minutes later, the unthinkable happens: the plane plunges into the ocean. The only survivors are the painter Scott Burroughs and a four-year-old boy, who is now the last remaining member of an immensely wealthy and powerful media mogul's family.
Was it by chance that so many influential people perished? Or was something more sinister at work? A storm of media attention brings Scott fame that quickly morphs into notoriety and accusations, and he scrambles to salvage truth from the wreckage. Amid trauma and chaos, the fragile relationship between Scott and the young boy grows and glows at the heart of this stunning novel, raising questions of fate, morality, and the inextricable ties that bind us together.
Before the Fall won this year's Edgar Award (given by the Mystery Writers of America) for 'Best Mystery Novel'. Interesting. It is a mystery novel and yet, in my opinion, it's not. I did a listen/read combo and found Robert Petkoff's narration quite good. I liked the book and was absorbed in the story, but it doesn't work like a 'normal' thriller. It's about an airplane crash - a small luxury jet - with 11 passengers aboard. One family, father, mother, 9-year-old daughter, 4-year-old son - father is the head of a very successful news network. One married couple - husband about to be charged with financial crimes. One bodyguard for the family. Three crew members - two pilots and one flight attendant. One invited guest - a painter who is hitching a ride to meet with galleries about his latest work. The flight leaves Martha's Vineyard and, less than 20 minutes later, crashes into the ocean. The painter, Scott Burroughs, and the young boy, JJ, are the only survivors. Burroughs swims for many hours to reach land, saving the boy's life. The tale is told from many viewpoints - about all the passengers and their lives, about the investigation into the cause of the crash, and about how an unknown painter and a small boy (who is now extremely rich) become so very famous. It's about life and how we might make sense of senseless events - tragedies - horrible things. It's interesting and very different. And I think you can tell that the author writes screenplays - but that's not necessarily a bad thing here. I will recommend it, if the reader keeps in mind that this is not your everyday mystery/thriller/disaster story. Try it.