Before The Fall -- Great Foreplay But A Disappointing And Unsatisfying Climax
Too many strings left hanging...
There's a scene in this book that kind of exemplifies how I felt when I finished reading the book. A character gets naked in a man's bed and he takes his clothes off and joins her. She mounts him thinking she's about to get a good ride only to discover he's sound asleep. The reader is presented with a lot of what if scenarios but like the described non-sex scene I just described, they lead nowhere.
David Bateman started a cable news network akin to MSNBC and CNN and he was backed by this mysterious billionaire whose identity is never revealed. Before boarding the flight he learns the lead anchorman, Bill Cunningham, has been using a spook to illegally wiretap people's phones and he yanks him off the air, despite Cunningham being a big ratings getter. After the plane crash, despite what Bateman ordered, Cunningham is still on the air reporting on the crash, spinning conspiracy theories out of nothing but his dirty creepy little mind. Could Cunningham have had something to do with the crash or perhaps the mysterious billionaire decided to get rid of Bateman to keep Cunningham on the air and to keep raking in those big ratings? Strangely enough, this angle was never really explored.
Instead the author seemed to be trying to throw shade on Scott Burroughs, the hero of the story. It's revealed he seems obsessed with disasters like plane crashes, as he's painted several painting depicting plane crashes and train crashes and tornadoes. For me this angle never worked, as I never suspected for a second he was behind the crash. He was invited on the plane because of his friendship with Maggie Bateman, who invited him to fly with them. It's actually a good thing Maggie invited him on the flight, because without him her young son, JJ, wouldn't have survived the crash and would have died with his entire family.
After the crash, a billionaire offers Scott a place to say. Her name is Layla. Could she be the mysterious billionaire that was backing David Bateman in his cable news network station? Does she have nefarious plans for Scott? Did she invite him to stay in her home to learn if he knows something about the crash? It was kind of another lost opportunity as she was never revealed to be the billionaire and since Cunningham smeared her name on the air, it doesn't appear he would do that to the person behind his paycheck and media exposure.
Another passenger invited on the flight at the last minute by Maggie is the Kiplings. Ben is a corporate crook who has been laundering money for countries considered to be enemies of the United States. The feds are about to indict him for his crimes, he's also warned by one of the people he deals with and given an ominous threat. As he's board the plane he thinks he may have see the same man doing maintenance on the plane and hears him say, "I wouldn't want to fly on this plane." Was the plane sabotaged because Ben Kipling was on it?
Years earlier, the Bateman's daughter, Rachel was kidnapped as a toddler. Her kidnapper was killed, but since then the family has been guarded by security, even though the kidnapper was killed when she was rescued. There's an insinuation that there was someone else involved in the kidnapping. That the kidnapper hadn't been working alone. Bateman and his security man, Gil, mention a name that can't be mentioned. We never find out who it is that can't be mentioned or why.
I didn't really think the pilot, James Melody, was to blame for the crash, either. There's a side story about him suddenly having nose bleeds. I guess we the reader was supposed to wonder if he had a nosebleed while at the wheel of the plane and that's what caused it to crash. That never really occurred to me.
When the wreckage of the flight is located and the bodies found it's revealed that the door to the cockpit was riddled with bullets and that it was locked. Did someone lock themselves in there in an attempt to save the passengers from a hijacking? Or did they lock themselves in there to purposely crash the plane? Could they have been paid by someone out to get Bateman or Kipling to purposely crash the plane, even though it would mean they would die with everyone else?
In a lot of ways the story is an indictment of cable network news not really being news but an entertainment industry that warps the stories to fit what will get the most viewer ratings. That they have very little interest in actually telling the truth.
Scott Burroughs does a heroic thing swimming with little JJ and saving both their lives. However, Cunningham from the start tries to make it seem he isn't a hero, after all. He starts labeling it as a supposed heroic act. He starts throwing mud on him. Suggesting he was sleeping with Maggie Bateman. That he's some male golddigger. That the bond he feels with young JJ is based on how rich the little boy is now he's the sole surviving member of his family. He even tries to suggest Scott was the person that caused the plane to crash.
Probably the most semi-satisfying moment is when Scott finally takes on Cunningham who has dragged his name and reputation through the mud. I say semi-satisfying because I would have liked Cunningham to get more of a comeuppance than he got.
My biggest problem with the story was that it left so many strings hanging unresolved. The only way to get all the answers would be if they did a sequel to the book to tie up all the loose ends. A lot of famous authors are listed on the back cover lauding the story and the clever twists, but I didn't really consider them to be twists, at all. A lot of mysteries were introduced and it ended up like watching LOST where none of the mysteries are ever solved. I hated it in LOST and I didn't like it in this book, either.
Why couldn't the billionaire's name be revealed? Who was the person involved with the daughter's kidnapping that couldn't be mentioned? It was stuff like that that made me feel dissatisfied with a book that I really enjoyed reading.