Cover image for Book Club kit : Before the fall
Book Club kit : Before the fall
First trade paperback edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grand Central Publishing, 2017.
Physical Description:
9 books (397 pages) ; 21 cm + 1 discussion guide
General Note:
Includes reading group guide.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Notes

On Order



The runaway New York Times bestseller and "one of the year's best suspense novels" (Janet Maslin) by the award-winning creator of Fargo .
Awards: 2017 Edger Award for Best Novel 2017 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel
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.

Kristin Hannah raves, "Noah Hawley really knows how to keep a reader turning the pages... a complex, compulsively readable thrill ride of a novel."

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hawley, an Emmy-winning television producer and writer, starts his fifth novel with a riveting event that reader Petkoff dramatizes to full effect: on a moonless night, a private plane carrying 11 people from Martha's Vineyard to New York, crashes into the Atlantic. Scott Burroughs, a young artist, survives. He's preparing for an impossibly long swim with a damaged shoulder when he discovers another survivor, a four-year-old boy. Hawley makes their swim as arduous as possible, with Petkoff adding a breathlessness to Burroughs's progress and terror to the boy's fearful cries. Their arrival on shore is just the start of a book that is part mystery (what caused the crash?), part thriller (past the swim, Burroughs is subjected to ruthless and uncompromising media scrutiny), and part social study (Hawley provides complex backstories of those aboard the flight, from the pilot and crew to the wealthy, powerful passengers). In unfolding the story, Hawley sets a fast pace, hopscotching from present to past. Petkoff delivers each shift in chronology and in characters smoothly and clearly, adding the proper emotional touches but being careful to narrate this story of redemption without sentimentality. A Grand Central hardcover. (May) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

In the latest by TV writer and novelist Hawley (The Good Father, 2012, etc.), a struggling artist becomes a hero twicefirst by saving a young boy's life, then by outsmarting the anchor of a Fox-like conservative TV network. A small charter plane mysteriously crashes into the water off Martha's Vineyard, leaving only two survivors: the painter Scott Burroughs and JJ, the young son of the network owner who chartered the flight. In a well-turned rescue sequence, Scott braves the waves and sharks and makes dry land with JJ on his back. From there, the book is part whodunit and part study of Scott's survivor's guilt. Flashbacks trace the back story of each doomed passenger: network head David Bateman and his wife, Maggie, who may have had a thing for Scott; financier Ben Kipling, about to be tried for laundering terrorist money; flight attendant Emma Lightner, who recently jilted co-pilot Charlie Busch. While the rescue team works to figure out who crashed the plane, Scott struggles to get his bearingsno small feat when wealthy socialite Layla Mueller is trying hard to get him into bed and when O'Reilly-like anchorman Bill Cunningham is harassing him for an interview. Like the successful screenwriter that he is, Hawley piles on enough intrigues and plot complications to keep you hooked even if you can spot most of them a sea mile away. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* On a foggy August night, a private plane flying from Martha's Vineyard to New York City crashes into the ocean 16 minutes after takeoff, killing nine of the 11 persons aboard. The corporate jet was being used by David Bateman, multimillionaire founder of 24-hour news network ALC, traveling with his wife, Maggie; their children, Rachel, nine, and JJ, four; their friends Ben and Sarah Kipling; a Bateman security guard; a crew of three; and last-minute passenger Scott Burroughs, an artist friend of Maggie's. Because Burroughs had recently turned his life around and resumed swimming, in which he excelled as a youth, he survives, along with JJ. As the narrative weaves between the aftermath of the crash to the backstories of those who died, conspiracy theories abound about Bateman's fame and wealth (which led to Rachel's being kidnapped as a toddler), Kipling's pending indictment by the SEC, even the catastrophic scenes that are the subjects of Burroughs' recent paintings. Hawley (The Good Father, 2012) ramps up suspense as the investigation into the crash proceeds, along with the level of the commentary by ALC headliner Bill Cunningham, who goes to illegal ends to gather information. A pulse-pounding story, grounded in humanity.--Leber, Michele Copyright 2016 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

LET ME SAY right off the bat, I am a huge fan of the FX television show "Fargo." It seems a reasonable confession to make before I review a novel written by the show's producer/writer/showrunner. Noah Hawley is definitely riding a wave of success right now. The critical and commercial success of "Fargo" has brought him a fistful of industry awards. His show is a real water-cooler conversation starter. But books are different. Hype and advertising and celebrity can certainly get a reader to pick up a novel and read the first few pages. After that, it's all about the words and the characters, the heart and soul of the story. I had no doubt that Hawley could write, that he could create amazing characters, that he had an ear for dialogue and a unique point of view - but could he write a successful novel? The answer, as readers of his four earlier books probably know already, is a resounding yes. Hawley's fifth novel, "Before the Fall," begins on a foggy summer night, with a luxurious private jet awaiting passengers. Not unlike the disaster movies of the 1970s, the story is at first concerned with letting us know who the cast will be. First we are introduced to the pilot, co-pilot and flight attendant, but these introductions are short and to the point. They are not the characters who matter, these sentences imply. Of importance are the passengers. The first to board is the Bateman family. David Bateman, a high-profile, multi-millionaire media mogul, has chartered the jet and arrives with his wife, Maggie, a down-to-earth former preschool teacher, and their children, 9-year-old Rachel and 4-year-old JJ. They are traveling with a security guard named Gil, a man who watches their every move and is armed for their protection. Next to arrive are the Kiplings, Ben and Sarah. Ben is a Wall Street power player, ultrasuccessful. The last to board the jet is Scott Burroughs, a recovering alcoholic and failed artist in his mid-40s who is going to New York with a renewed sense of purpose and a new series of paintings to show. He has been invited onboard by Maggie, to whom he has recently shown his artwork. Eleven people on a plane that will be in the air for exactly 18 minutes before it crashes into the black Atlantic. Surprisingly, Hawley is not really interested in the details of the plane crash itself. He wants to know who and why. Who are these 11 people, really? Why did this jet go down without a single mayday call only 18 minutes after takeoff? To answer these questions, after the crash the novel splits into parallel narratives. In the foreground is the investigation of the crash itself, tracking the search for lost passengers and wreckage as N.T.S.B. agents piece the facts together. Interwoven throughout are chapters that slowly and carefully reveal the back stories of the people who were on the jet. Almost everyone harbors a dark secret or a potentially dangerous past. The novel suffers a bit under the weight of this structure in the beginning. Too many characters are introduced in too few pages, and there's too much repetition. But it doesn't take long for Hawley to hit his stride. Scott Burroughs survives the crash and fights to swim to the surface of the turbulent water, with flames all around him. He hears a small voice crying out for help - a child. Scott finds the boy amid the wreckage and takes hold of him. With the boy on his back, tiny arms clamped around his neck, Scott begins the long, arduous swim to shore. He and 4-year-old JJ Bateman are the only survivors. At first Scott is hailed as a hero. The story of his rescue of the boy and his herculean swim through shark-infested waters explodes onto the 24-hour news cycle. The miraculous rescue story is played and replayed across all networks, but Scott doesn't consider himself heroic, and he wants no part of celebrity. After a wrenching goodbye to the boy he saved, Scott goes into hiding. Struggling as he is with sobriety and the shame of a life poorly lived, the last thing he wants is to be famous. "Talking to people on the subway is one thing," Hawley writes, "but addressing the masses - that's something he can't handle. A statement becomes a pronouncement when delivered to the crowd." SCOTT LEARNS QUICKLY, however, that there is no hiding out from the media, not in this day and age, and not from a disaster of this m agnitude. It instantly becomes a huge story, especially since two of the men on board - David Bateman and Ben Kipling - were multimillionaires. Bateman was best known as the head of a TV network; now, one of his stars, the loudmouthed, archconservative news anchor Bill Cunningham, sees a chance to profit from the tragedy and goes on the offensive, spouting his opinion as "news," demanding answers. Careless with facts, Cunningham fans the flames of anger and strives to create a mob mentality. He begins using words like "terrorism" to describe the crash. He claims it can't be coincidence that two such powerful men were on board a jet that crashed. He blames it on foreign nationals, then the liberal media, and then he finds a better target: Scott Burroughs, the would-be hero. Cunningham broadcasts lies and half truths about Scott's character, casts aspersions, hints at an affair with Maggie Bateman. He taps phones and crosses legal and moral boundaries in pursuit of a truth about which he cares not at all. Bill Cunningham is a portrait of American news/entertainment media at its very worst. Yet as Cunningham pursues his obsession with assigning blame and as the back stories of the characters come to light, there are hints that something sinister may in fact have been behind the crash. Word gets out that Ben Kipling was soon to be indicted for laundering money from hostile nations. The press reminds viewers that the Bateman family had been targeted before: Their daughter, Rachel, was kidnapped years earlier. Scott Burroughs is painted as a philandering opportunist. The news story escalates out of control, becoming a media firestorm. Cunningham uses every trick in the book to vilify Scott and cast doubt on his intentions, which are the same now as they were even before he set foot on the doomed plane: simply to figure out how to survive. Noah Hawley really knows how to keep a reader turning the pages, but there's more to the novel than suspense. On one hand, "Before the Fall" is a complex, compulsively readable thrill ride of a novel. On the other, it is an exploration of the human condition, a meditation on the vagaries of human nature, the dark side of celebrity, the nature of art, the power of hope and the danger of an unchecked media. The combination is a potent, gritty thriller that exposes the high cost of news as entertainment and the randomness of fate. KRISTIN HANNAH is the author, most recently, of "The Nightingale."

Library Journal Review

A private jet carrying 11 people crashes off the Atlantic coast. There are only two survivors-struggling artist Scott Burroughs and the four-year-old he saves, the son of a powerful network executive. Chapters alternate between the present-day investigation of what happened and the backstories of all those who were on the ill-fated flight. The stories of the passengers, pilots, and flight attendant, plus the investigators and surviving relatives, provide acute character studies that complement the brisk storytelling. As Scott develops a bond with the boy, events begin to spiral out of control as accusations fly and the media spin their tales. Robert Petkoff's narration is engaging and effectively portrays a diverse set of characters. VERDICT A great summer listening experience that will be popular with fans of mystery and suspense fiction. ["Rich with a compelling narrative, suspenseful plot twists, and engaging characters, this fourth an Emmy Award-winning producer...promises to be the must-read thriller of the summer": LJ Xpress Review 4/15/16 starred review of the Grand Central hc.]-Phillip Oliver, formerly with Univ. of North Alabama, Florence © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.