Saturday, May 20, 2023

It’s an Easy Choice: Don’t Wait a Year to Read Falling by T.J. Newman

By Scott D. Parker

Look at that cover. How cool is that? For me, it stopped me in my tracks last year when I saw it for the first time. Isn’t that what a cover’s supposed to do? Well, mission accomplished. I promptly put that book on my To Be Read list.

And a year later, finally got to it.

When I finished the debut novel by former flight attendant T. J. Newman, I chastised myself. Why did it take so long to pick up the book because it was a good one.

The premise is a great example of an elevator pitch: on a transcontinental flight from LA to New York, veteran pilot Bill Hoffman is given a choice: Crash the plane or his family back in LA will die. The proof: a live video feed of his two kids and his wife held hostage in his own house. Both his wife, Carrie, and the kidnapper/terrorist wear bomb vests.

Oh, and if Bill does not make a choice, well, there’s someone on the plane that will force him to choose. Needless to say, the terrorist commands Bill to tell no one about the situation because if he does, his family dies.

You get all of this by the time Chapter 3 is over and there are still 39 chapters left to go.

Normal People in Unusual Circumstances

It is a hallmark of thriller and suspense stories to have a common main character just going about his or her life and then is broadsided by outside events. That fits this story to a T. It naturally makes you ask what you would do in a similar situation. What I particularly enjoyed about Falling is how logical (given his predicament) his choices are. The same could be said for his allies (come on; that’s not a spoiler). Given Newman’s background as a flight attendant you didn’t think they wouldn’t play a role is how this story plays out, did you? Of course not.

Flashbacks Deployed Judiciously

I listened to this book as narrated by Stephen Weber and the story just flew by. The rare pauses occurred when Newman would give us a flashback to an earlier scene in order to given Bill’s actions greater context. It’s a time-honored trope as well but it is a trope for a reason, and they work here. They didn’t bother me a bit and, just as Newman wanted, it deepened Bill and the choices he was being forced to make.

The Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and the ending actually sparked an emotional response. I rarely get those from books. In fact, the most recent one was 19 years ago with John Scalzi’s Redshirts. Newman may be a debut author but she knows how to spin a yarn. Her latest book, Drowning will be published this month and you can be sure I won’t wait a year to read it.

T. J. Newman's Encouraging Open Letter

In reading about Newman, I discovered her recently published open letter to fellow storytellers over at Deadline. It's a Must Read.

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