Falling should come with a warning, do not start before bedtime. Seriously, the first sentence has a shoe falling into a woman’s lap with the foot still in it. From there, the book never lets up other than briefly giving us a glimpse of our characters’ lives when not operating at full throttle.

Bill is a dedicated pilot with a wife and two children and other than a recurring nightmare about a plane disaster, he is a happy man. Jo is an experienced flight attendant whose nephew, Theo, is an FBI agent trying to live down a mistake. When Bill gets a call in the air that his family has been taken hostage and the only way to save them is to crash the plane, he enlists Jo who reaches out to her nephew. Working separately, the three of them try to save his family and the passengers.

I made the mistake of starting Falling late in the evening. I stayed up until I finished. The story grabs you from the beginning and never lets you go. The characters are complex. Even the kidnappers are somewhat sympathetic. You understand their motivation even if their methods are repugnant. Even Bill’s wife and children are more than hostages waiting to be rescued. They all have agency. Jo is innovative and determined. Theo is both scared for his job and ready to throw it all away to save the flight.

Newman brings the authenticity of lived experience to the story inside the plane. There is a certainty and confidence there that is less strong in the FBI scenes. It shows the power of writing what you know. I have never understood that to mean limiting yourself to your live experience, but to what you can understand or imagine. However, it’s clear that knowing how to think like a flight attendant loomed large in this excellent thriller.

I received a copy of Falling from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.

  • Falling at Avid Reader Press | Simon & Schuster
  • T. J. Newman author site