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Falling by T.J. Newman


Flight attendants must have so many stories to tell. There must be endless work stories about unruly passengers, of celebrity visits, mid-air trysts and a whole host of other scenarios that occur daily when dealing with so many people in such a cramped environment. However, it is the scenario of a terrorist plot that must haunt those same flight attendants on a daily basis.


The premise for the novel came from a long haul flight that Newman was on and she had the thought: “All of their lives, our lives, are in the hands of the pilots. That’s not exactly new – but the flipside of that also came to mind. With that much power and responsibility, how vulnerable does that make a commercial pilot?”.


Captain Bill Hoffman leaves his family on an important day - his son’s ball game. He already feels guilty with his wife as he steps aboard the plane. However, it is just the start of a day that will change their family’s lives forever. A kidnapping and a terrorist plot with modern technology means that it will literally take everything he has to ensure that the plane he is piloting manages to make it down with all 150 souls on board alive.


This novel is the first for ex-flight attendant T.J. Newman, and explores the melding together of the terrorist plot and the kidnapping in a setting where the evil runs deep into the plane corporate company itself. It’s a triumph as a first novel and contains all the typical thriller elements to keep the reader guessing and considering what their own response would be in a similar situation.


As per the usual American novel style, it retains the America-versus-the-world mentality and a general thumping of chests and high-fives all around type of vibe. At times the premise becomes a little far-fetched but ultimately this level of extravagance in the narrative adds to the cinematic experience of the novel.


The narrative is interspersed with historical elements of the relationship between Bill and wife, Carrie, often using italics to denote the change in the narrative style. In addition the chapters are often told from the varying perspectives of those involved, from the FBI, to the captain, to the family and so on. It keeps the story moving with pace and interest.


As a page turner, there is nothing better. The central driving question that haunts throughout is whether to crash the plane, or kill your family. Which do you choose?


Reviewer: Chris Reed

Simon & Schuster Ltd, RRP $45