The plane crash happens towards the beginning of Noah Hawley’s novel Before the Fall. The small private plane is headed from Martha’s Vineyard to New York City and most of the passengers can best be described as the super rich. The exception, along with the plane’s crew and a bodyguard, is Scott Burroughs, a struggling painter. Margaret Bateman, the wife of David Bateman—who runs a 24 hour cable news network similar to Fox—got to know Scott at the Martha’s Vineyard farmers market and invited him to come along at the last minute. (Scott has some appointments with art dealers set up in New York City.) Ben Kipling is also on the plane. He’s a shady financier who has recently come under investigation for moving money around from countries sponsoring terrorism. And did I mention that Scott also paints photo-realistic pictures of disaster scenes and that Rachel, the Bateman’s daughter and another one of the passengers, was kidnapped a number of years ago? There are umpteen reasons why this plane went down.
The only survivors of the crash are Scott and the four year old son of the Batemans. Scott, despite an injured arm, is able to swim himself and the boy to the shore. He initially is seen as a hero until Bill Cunningham, the muckraking host of a show on the recently deceased David Bateman’s network, starts spinning conspiracy theories about why the plane crashed. In addition, Scott doesn’t do himself any favors with some of the decisions he makes after the crash.
While Scott is the book’s main character, Hawley goes into the back stories of the various characters in the book, most of them passengers on the ill-fated flight. These back stories further open up the possibilities about why the plane went down. Before the Fall is a unique, fascinating and very readable novel that intelligently explores the question of whether life is mostly random or if things always happen for a reason.