Before the Fall - Robert Petkoff, Noah Hawley

A small, but luxurious, private plane goes down between Martha's Vineyard and New York -- two passengers survive, a painter (a guest of one of the other passengers) and a 4-year old boy. The boy is the son of two of the passengers -- a man who runs a FOXNews doppleganger and his wife. The painter is a recovering addict named Scott Burroughs who's on the verge of his big break. Thanks to a childhood obsession with swimming, Scott is able to swim he and the boy to safety -- catapulting them both into a level of celebrity that nobody wants.


The investigation into the plane crash begins even before Scott makes it to shore -- and looks into the background of everyone on the plane to find the responsible party. As the investigation -- and the narration -- gets into their pasts, it's easy to believe that many of the people on board are responsible for the tragedy (either as perpetrator or target).


The other primary storyline follows the lives of Scott and the boy in the days following the crash. Their lives are forever changed -- and intertwined. This was the heart of the book -- by far the best part of it, while there was no suspense, no danger, just picking up the pieces of their life while under intense and unwanted media scrutiny.


The commentary this novel makes about the role of the Twenty-Four News Cycle in commenting on, shaping, and twisting whatever story it chooses to focus on needs to be heard. On the one hand, it's nothing that many haven't said before, but the way Hawley says it should help his message to resonate with people.


I read Hawley's first novel, <b>A Conspiracy of Tall Men</b>, when it was first released and it blew me away -- and I lost track of him after that until his show, <b>The Unusuals</b> premiered (still annoyed with ABC for canceling that too soon). This book has convinced me that I need to go back and read the books I missed -- this isn't as good as his debut, but it's easier to believe. Hawley has a great way of getting into his character's heads -- and bringing the reader with him. These are all clearly drawn individuals with intricate and distinct backstories and voices, throw in an equally intricate plot that kept me gripped (even after I stopped really caring about "how did it happen" -- I'm not sure that makes sense).


Petkoff's narration is pretty good -- he's able to keep the story moving and deliver convincing characters (although I'm not crazy about his kid-voice, thankfully, he didn't have to use it often). Petkoff's a name that I'll keep an eye out for.


A novel with two (main) stories -- one that's really good, and another that's ultimately disappointing, while gripping up until that point. Hawley delivered here, and I look forward to reading more of his work (almost as much as I look forward to another season of his TV work). I recommend this -- either in text or audio -- it won't be the best thing you read, but it'll reward the time.